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.
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
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
to mention the continued discomfort of runny stools.
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.
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
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
-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
Barbara Herondorf, L.D.
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