Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cancer

Can I drink alcohol on my diet?

Chitosan - A Pill that Absorbs Fat?

Cholesterol - Eat more fat to lower?

Coffee! Should You or Shouldn't You?


Ephedra - Warning

EZ Zucchini

Fat Snack

Fats - Mono, Poly, Saturated

Food Poisoning

Food Labels that Fool You

Genetics and Obesity


Hunger - What is it?

I Ate too Much!

Olestra - The fat that's not a fat?



Salt - Something Nice

Sports Nutrition

Sun - Good Nutrition

Vegetable Soup Homemade

Vegetarian Eating

Vegetarians are Healthier?

Winners and Losers on Your Plate

A pill that absorbs fat?

Chitosan, an ingredient in some over-the-counter dietary food supplements, is one of the newest fat blockers on the market. Manufacturers of chitosan claim their product will promote weight loss by preventing absorption of fat into the body. But is it a gimmick or does it really work?

You might be surprised to discover that chitosan is a chemical derivative of "chitin," the exoskeleton (shells) of lobsters, crabs, and shrimp and is similar in composition to dietary fiber found in fruit and vegetables. Like fiber, chitin has the ability to bind to cholesterol and fat in the intestinal tract and prevent its absorption. This small amount of fat then passes into the stool and out of the body as waste.

Manufacturers of chitin supplements claim that chitosan absorbs from six to ten times its weight in fat. Sounds impressive! Now let's do some computing. In one tablet containing 250 mg. of chitosan (and assuming the reported ingredients on the package are accurate), at six to ten times its weight, chitosan would at most absorb between 13 and 22 calories of fat - pay attention - I said at most.

Here's how you'll know if your new fat blocker is effective:

The fat you eat is absorbed from the small intestine into the body. If it's not absorbed, then it has only one other route to go - from the intestinal tract and into the feces where it's excreted. But this creates an uncomfortable condition called steatorrhea (fat in the stool) and a lot of diarrhea. There are a couple of prescription medications currently available on the market, real fat blockers that work, but these must be prescribed by a physician, and for good reason. Fat soluble vitamins need fat to be absorbed and metabolized, therefore, long-term use of a real fat blocker will cause steatorrhea, malabsorption, and a vitamin deficiency not to mention the continued discomfort of runny stools.

Although there might be some truth to the claim that chitosan absorbs fat, the effect is so minimal that unless you've also decreased your caloric intake, don't expect to see any weight change when taking these supplements. Fortunately, because it's so ineffective, you'll also not see steatorrhea or a vitamin deficiency.

When evaluating the ineffective results (not to mention the expense) of chitosan supplements, ask yourself, "Is it worth it?" It seems clear to me, if you want to get rid of a few calories by adding fat blockers to your diet, the more practical method is to eat fresh fruit and vegetables with fiber, and leave the shells to the crabs and lobsters.

-Fiber is the hard substance that composes the strong outer covering and tough inner structure of plants.

-Fiber from plants stimulates peristalsis, the natural process that moves undigested food through the intestinal tract. Chitosan has no effect on peristalsis.

Where do you get your nutrition information? Most states now have licensure laws for Dietitians and Nutritionists. Be sure your nutrition advisor is "Licensed" by the State as a Licensed Dietitian (LD) or Licensed Nutritionist (LN), or in states that don't have licensure laws, a Registered Dietitian.




CarboH, Inc.
Barbara Herondorf, L.D.

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