Chitin is a dietary supplement made from a starch found in the skeleton of shrimp, crab, and other shellfish. It can also be referred to as 'chitosol' or 'chitosan.' It is not digested and passes through the intestines unabsorbed, thereby adding no calories
. The chemical makeup makes it bind with fat thus preventing the fat from being absorbed, as well. It is currently undergoing evaluation as a weight loss supplement.
Chitin should be taken 30-60 minutes prior to eating to allow time to become activated so it may absorb the fat from the meal. Human literature states that 8 ounces of water should be consumed for each 2 capsules of chitosol (0.5 mg chitosol in each capsule) taken. Other medications should be taken 4 hours before or after chitosol to reduce the risk of decreased absorption. Since the product decreases fat absorption, there may also be a decreased absorption of fat soluble vitamins. If vitamin deficiency is a possibility, supplemental vitamins A, D, E, and K are recommended. Be careful when using this product long-term (months) because of the risk of vitamin deficiencies.
Side effects of chitin include cramping and constipation usually due to inadequate water intake or excessive amounts of chitin for the amount of fat ingested in a meal. Do not use in patients that are allergic to seafood or shellfish, pregnant or lactating, taking blood thinners such as coumadin or heparin, have small intestinal inflammation, ischemic bowel disease, osteoporosis, or are taking multiple medications throughout the day. Chitin may interfere with medications that regulate glucose levels or control blood pressure. Chitin may decrease calcium absorption which may result in decreased bone mineral content (osteoporosis). It may decrease the naturally occurring bacteria in the intestines which regulate intestinal enzymes and digestion, anti-infective functions, and even vitamin manufacture and release. Chitin is a fiber; plenty of water needs to be consumed to prevent constipation.