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Chitosan

Chitosan, the fat & cholesterol binder that helps to promote weight loss and control blood pressure.

Chitosan is a naturally occuring substance found in shellfish that acts like a "fat-sponge" in the digestive tract. It binds to cholesterol and helps rapid cholesterol lowering by inhibiting LDL (bad cholesterol) and boosting HDL (protective cholesterol).

What is Chitosan?

Chitosan is a polysaccharide found in the exoskeleton of shellfish, such as crabs and shrimps. It is a naturally occurring substance that is chemically similar to cellulose (plant fibre).

However, unlike plant fibre, chitosan has the ability to significantly bind fat, acting like a "fat sponge" in the digestive tract. When chitosan is combined with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), its action is potentiated.

Chitosan is superior to plant fibres, in fact it is unique. Most fibres are hydrophilic (they repel fat and attract water), whereas chitosan is lipophilic (it attracts fat) and while possessing many of the same benefits as plant fibres like psyllium, it has the ability to attract fat-soluble substances rendering the molecule too large for absorption.

Chitosan is a positively charged fibre, which attracts and binds to negatively charged fatty acids. The human intestinal tract is positively charged, which means only negatively charged molecules may cross the membrane. Chitosan being positively charged cannot cross this membrane. As well as this, fatty acids, which have been bound to the chitosan fibre are repelled.

What does Chitosan assist with?

Chitosan has been studied extensively and research has confirmed the following:

Binds to fat soluble molecules
Binds to dietary and endogenous cholesterol
It inhibits LDL (the 'bad' cholesterol) and boosts HDL (the 'good' cholesterol)
It remains virtually inactive in the human digestive tract
Promotes weight loss
Helps to control blood pressure

Chitosan should not be taken on a long term basis.

Sounds wonderful, right? Well unfortunately Chitosan's ability to attract fat-soluble substances is non-specific. What I mean is that Chitosan cannot determine which fatty substance is detrimental (ie saturated and trans fatty acids, cholesterol analogues) and which is beneficial (ie fat soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids). This restricts the use of Chitosan on a long-term basis, as using this product would eventually lead to both an essential fatty acid deficiency (you need these to lose fat) and a vitamin deficiency (you need these to distribute fats around the body).

One further problem is the presence of a pesky fat storage enzyme in our body. The amount of fat you carry is not ordained by your genes, but rather by what you eat and do. Your body has no internal reference for permanent level of fat, only a habitual level. When you remain at a particular level of body fat for a year or more, your body develops all the adipose cells, capillaries, enzymes counts, peripheral nerves, hormone levels and connective tissue to support it. Your body comes to recognise that level of body fat as self and will defend it vigorously. That is your fatpoint, monitored by the enzyme lipoprotein lipase.

So when we ingest a product that attracts fatty substances and enables them to be unabsorbable, we are essentially starving our body of necessary fatty acids, causing rapid fat loss, thus alerting our lipoprotein enzyme to increase in quantity and activity. That pesky enzyme thinks that you are starving yourself of fat and when fat of any kind is introduced into the diet, our enzyme starts to grab every molecule of fat and attempts to replenish the 'missing' fat that was initially lost when Chitosan was first used. In fact, it even stops your body using any ingested fat for energy. That enzyme will beat you every time.

CHITOSAN THEREFORE IS NOT THE MOST IDEAL PRODUCT FOR FAT LOSS BUT PERHAPS USEFUL IN SITUATIONS WHEN A HIGH FAT MEAL IS UNAVOIDABLE.

A multivitamin/mineral supplement is also needed (ie. Mulitpower) to combat any potential fat-soluble nutrient deficiencies. However, Chitosan is very promising at rapid cholesterol lowering by inhibiting LDL (atherogenic) cholesterol and increasing HDL (protective) cholesterol. It promotes the healing of ulcers and lesions, it possesses an anti-bacterial and anti-candida action, it can act as an antacid and can inhibit the formation of plaque and prevent tooth decay. Chitosan may also help with irritable bowel syndrome and is said to be a "calcium enhancer and bone strengthener". As well as this, it can help reduce blood levels of uric acid, which cause gout.

Chitosan has been used safely for more than two decades. It is a safe ingredient that is biodegradable and environmentally biocompatible. Other than its fat binding action, Chitosan remains virtually inactive in the human body. It is low in toxicity and allergic properties and is considered safe.

When should you not use Chitosan?

You should not take Chitosan if you have any kind of shellfish allergy and this product should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women, without first consulting your health care professional.

We do not recommend using Chitosan continuously. Because Chitosan is 'non-specific' in the fats it binds with, regular &/or long term use can cause nutrient deficiencies. Our suggestion is to use this at only 2 or 3 meals in a week, particularly those that contain a high level of saturated fats.

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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.


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