This post is for those of you who have tried out several diet pills that are highly popular in Japan. Many foreigners visit chain drug stores and buy loads of different diet pills back home. I would say I had my own experience as well until recently I started to get curious of how these pills are different from each other and do they really work?? One day I visited a Matsumoto Kiyoshi store in Harajuku and was examining this particular diet product called “After Diet” (アフターダイエット）that claims to work when you take it AFTER meal. (Normal pills require you to take BEFORE meal). (Picture below) And the counter guy told me that “actually there is a more effective product if you’re looking for this particular ingredient.” He referred to Chitosan. What he suggested me instead is another popular product in Japan from a brand called Livita; it’s called Chitosan Aojiru （キトサン青汁）, looking like green powder that you use to mix in water. (second picture below)
What I learned from talking to this guy is that the “Livita” product could guarantee more results. From the picture, you can see the circle logo with a stick-man inside. That is called “Tokuho” logo, which is given to products that are guaranteed to be effective and safe for general consumption. Anyway, that all brought my attention to what Chitosan really is and why is it used so much in different diet pills.
So what is Chitosan?
From WedMD: Chitosan is a sugar that is obtained from the hard outer skeleton of shellfish, including crab, lobster, and shrimp. It is used to treat obesity, high cholesterol, Crohn’s disease, “tired blood” (anemia), loss of strength and appetite, and trouble sleeping (insomnia).
From Wikipedia: Chitosan is widely marketed as diet pills as a “fat binder” which is supposed to limit fat absorption in the body. In an experimental model of the digestive tract, chitosan was shown to interact with oil, which inhibited absorption and enhanced lipid excretion, but the interaction between chitosan and fat is still not well understood. It is also under research for several potential dietary applications. One of them being as a soluble dietary fiber, causing the movement in your digestive tract to slow down, hence slowing down your sense of hunger. It is relatively INSOLUBLE in water, but can be dissolved in acids, which would make it a highly-sticky dietary fiber to say in plain word. Such fibers might inhibit the uptake of fat by increasing the thickness of inner layer of the intestines (observed in animals).
Well, this is the origin of why chitosan is being advertised as capable to “slow down the absorption of fat” (脂肪の吸収を抑える). You can actually see this claim everywhere now. Go to combini and you will see so many brands of tea with the “Tokuho” logo, claiming that the tea could slow down the fat absorption and should be drunk together or after an oily meal. Another type would be the “body metabolism enhancer” (脂肪を燃やす) type, which I’m not gonna talk about today.
Basically, chitosan acts as a very cool type of fiber that interferes with the fat absorbing process after you eat. That is pretty much all there is to the claim in terms of weight loss and diet pills. Of course, it has many other useful applications in other fields.
Some considerations to think about when taking chitosan:
1. Fiber is good for you and can help with your constipation problem. But taking too much fiber can also be the CAUSE of it. Too much is never good.
2. If you have allergy to seafood like crab or shrimp, then you shouldn’t really risk.
– You can’t really obtain chitosan even though you eat seafood. That is because chitosan is extracted from the shells and not the flesh that you eat.
– The claim that chitosan would attach itself to a fat particle, wrap itself around it, and together would be excreted from the body has not been sufficiently supported by evidence. It could do that in WATER, but not in acidic environment, which is basically that of your intestinal tract.
As is the case with other ingredients, diet pills make chitosan sound amazing and give us high expectation that it would really work. However, I think the best way is to incorporate it with a healthy lifestyle; not relying solely on the effect of pills that is going to vary depending on each person’s condition. Train yourself to choose good food is always better than indulging in oily food then taking 3-4 pills hoping that that would be all it takes to stop the fat from entering your body.