High intake of soluble fiber is a very effective way of lowering serum cholesterol. Most people, however, find that high amounts of fiber produce gastrointestinal upset, and therefore do not consistently take enough fiber to lower cholesterol levels.
Chitosan is a fiber composed of chitin, which is a component of the shell of shellfish. Scientists in Norway have processed chitin to provide a magnetic binding affinity for fat and cholesterol in the digestive tract. Chitosan can absorb as much as seven to eight times its weight of fat and bile in the digestive tract. The fat and cholesterol are then excreted through the bowel, thereby improving bowel function and reducing cholesterol levels in the body.
One of the first studies to show a direct correlation between lowering of serum cholesterol with chitosan-suggesting that the agent could be used to inhibit the development of atherosclerosis in individuals with hypercholesterolemia-appeared in the June 1998 issue of Atherosclerosis Journal. Researchers at the Department of Medicine, University of Auckland, New Zealand, found that animals fed for 20 weeks on a diet containing 5% chitosan or on a control diet attained blood cholesterol levels significantly lower in the chitosan-fed animals throughout the study and at 20 weeks were 64% below that of control animals.
Additionally, when the area of aortic plaque in the two groups of animals were compared, a highly significant inhibition of plaque deposits was observed in the chitosan-fed animals-42% and 50%, compared to 42% in the control animals. Earlier in the August-October 1994 issue of the journal ARM Medicina, Helsinki, clinical studies with chitosan demonstrated that in 5 weeks total cholesterol (LDL) was reduced by 32%, HDL increased by 7.5%, and triglycerides were lowered by 18%.
Another study done almost 20 years ago in the April 1980 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported a 25 to 30% reduction in cholesterol over a several-month period, initially documenting chitosan's potential cholesterol-lowering effectiveness.
Because of chitosan's ability to bind fat, chitosan is also an excellent aid in weight loss as well as normalization of cholesterol levels in the body.