Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Find a Vitamin or Supplement

CHITOSAN

Other Names:

Ascorbate de Chitosane, Chitosan Ascorbate, Chitosane, Chitosane Déacétylé, Chitosane Mono-Carboxyméthylé, Deacetylated Chitosan, Enzymatic Polychitosamine Hydrolisat, HEP-30, Hydrolisat Enzymatique de Polychitosamine, Mono-Carboxymethylated Chi...
See All Names

CHITOSAN Overview
CHITOSAN Uses
CHITOSAN Side Effects
CHITOSAN Interactions
CHITOSAN Dosing
CHITOSAN Overview Information

Chitosan is a sugar that is obtained from the hard outer skeleton of shellfish, including crab, lobster, and shrimp. It is used for medicine.

Chitosan is used to treat obesity, high cholesterol, and Crohn’s disease. It is also used to treat complications that kidney failure patients on dialysis often face, including high cholesterol, “tired blood” (anemia), loss of strength and appetite, and trouble sleeping (insomnia).

Some people apply chitosan directly to their gums to treat inflammation that can lead to tooth loss (periodontitis), or chew gum that contains chitosan to prevent “cavities” (dental caries).

In an effort to help “donor tissue” rebuild itself, plastic surgeons sometimes apply chitosan directly to places from which they have taken tissue to be used elsewhere.

In pharmaceutical manufacturing, chitosan is used as a filler in tablets; as a carrier in controlled-release drugs; to improve the way certain drugs dissolve; and to mask bitter tastes in solutions taken by mouth.

How does it work?

Chitosan is extracted from the shells of shrimp, lobster, and crabs. It is a fibrous substance that might block absorption of dietary fat and cholesterol.

CHITOSAN Uses & Effectiveness What is this?

Possibly Effective for:

  • Patients with kidney failure who are on long-term hemodialysis. When taken by these patients, chitosan may reduce high cholesterol; help to correct anemia; and improve physical strength, appetite, and sleep.
  • Treating periodontitis, a dental condition. Applying chitosan ascorbate directly to the gums seems to help in the treatment of periodontitis.
  • Helping to remake tissue after plastic surgery. Applying N-carboxybutyl chitosan directly seems to help donor site tissue rebuild in plastic surgery.

Insufficient Evidence for:

  • Weight loss and obesity. There is conflicting evidence about the effectiveness of chitosan for weight loss. Some research suggests that combining chitosan with a calorie-restricted diet might result in a small amount of weight loss. But taking chitosan, without cutting calories, doesn’t seem to cause weight loss. Some promoters say that chitosan causes weight loss by flushing out fat through the intestines. But research doesn’t support this claim. Studies show that chitosan doesn’t seem to significantly increase the amount of fat in bowel movements.
    Many studies on chitosan have design flaws that make their results questionable. When only the higher quality, larger studies are analyzed, the effect of chitosan on weight loss is minimal, only about 0.5 kg (about 1.1 pounds) when taken for 1-6 months. This may not make much difference to health.
  • High cholesterol. There is conflicting evidence about the effectiveness of chitosan for lowering cholesterol. Some research shows that taking chitosan does not seem to significantly decrease total cholesterol or “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in people with high cholesterol. But other research shows that chitosan seems to lower cholesterol in women with mildly high cholesterol. An analysis of studies using 1-4.5 grams of chitosan per day for longer than 4 weeks suggests that taking chitosan can reduce total cholesterol by about 6 mg/dL in patients with or without high cholesterol.
  • Crohn's disease (an intestinal disorder). Developing research suggests a combination of chitosan and ascorbic acid might help Crohn's disease. This combination seems to increase removal of fat in the feces, which might decrease intestinal inflammation.
  • Dental cavities. There is some evidence that a chewing gum containing chitosan can decrease the number of cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth compared to other gum. However, there is no reliable evidence that this gum actually prevents cavities.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of chitosan for these uses.


CHITOSAN Side Effects & Safety

Chitosan is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth short-term (up to six months) or applied to the skin. When taken by mouth, it might cause mild stomach upset, constipation, or gas.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of chitosan during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Shellfish allergy: Chitosan is taken from the outer skeleton of shellfish. There is a concern that people with allergies to shellfish might also be allergic to chitosan. However, people who are allergic to shellfish are allergic to the meat, not the shell. So some experts believe that chitosan may not be a problem for people with shellfish allergy.

CHITOSAN Interactions What is this?

Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination

  • Warfarin (Coumadin) interacts with CHITOSAN

    Warfarin is a blood thinner. There is some concern that taking chitosan might increase the blood thinning effects of warfarin (Coumadin). Taking chitosan with warfarin (Coumadin) could increase the chance of bruising or bleeding. If you take warfarin, avoid taking chitosan.


CHITOSAN Dosing

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:

  • For reducing high cholesterol and improving anemia, physical strength, appetite, and sleep in people with renal failure who are undergoing hemodialysis: 1.35 grams of chitosan three times daily.

See 19 Reviews for this Treatment - OR -

Review this Treatment

Learn about User Reviews and read IMPORTANT information about user generated content

Conditions of Use and Important Information: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version. © Therapeutic Research Faculty 2009.

Search for a Vitamin or Supplement

Ex. Ginseng, Vitamin C, Depression

Today on WebMD

Woman taking a vitamin or supplement
Article
Man taking a vitamin or supplement
Article
 
clams
Quiz
Woman in sun
Slideshow
 
Flaxseed added fiber
Video
!!69X75_Vitamins_Supplements.jpg
Evaluator
 
Woman sleeping
Article
Woman staring into space with coffee
Article
 
Related Newsletters

Stay Informed with the latest must-read information delivered right to your inbox.

IMPORTANT: About This Section and Other User-Generated Content on WebMD

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, reviews, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. User-generated content areas are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatment or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD User-generated content as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.