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What are the Most Common Chitosan Side Effects?

Lainie Petersen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Chitosan is a substance made from the shells of various types of shellfish, including shrimp and crab. While chitosan is sometimes used in plastic surgery to encourage tissue growth and encourage wound healing and by dentists to treat gum disease, it is perhaps best known as a dietary supplement. While scientific studies proving its efficacy are lacking, many consumers use chitosan to treat conditions such as obesity and high cholesterol. Chitosan is available over the counter, without a doctor's prescription. Common chitosan side effects include stomach upset, constipation, and gas. Other potential problems with the consumption of chitosan are possible drug interactions, triggering of a shellfish allergy, and malabsorption of some nutrients.

Chitosan is often consumed before a meal with the hope that it will absorb dietary fat, thus preventing the digestion of the fat and its calories. While its efficacy as a weight-loss treatment has not been proven, many people continue to buy and use chitosan for that purpose. Some users complain of the most common chitosan side effects such as gastric upset and gas, though the distress is usually not severe and goes away after awhile.

The more serious concerns about chitosan side effects involve its ability to to bind with fat, which may interfere with the absorption of essential minerals, fat-soluble vitamins, and certain drugs. Pregnant women in particular are cautioned against the use of chitosan as it may keep them from properly absorbing such essential nutrients as vitamins A and D as well as calcium. Certain drugs, such as oral contraceptive pills, are likewise fat-soluble, and they may be rendered less effective by the consumption of chitosan. There is also evidence that chitosan increases the effects of warfarin, a blood thinner. Because this interaction could result in increased bruising or bleeding, warfarin users should avoid chitosan.

Even though they are technically not chitosan side effects, allergic reactions remain a concern for potential users of chitosan. Medical writers are careful to note that shellfish allergies are triggered by the meat of a shellfish, not its shell. It is still a good idea for those who suffer from shellfish allergies to be wary of chitosan and to be on the lookout for symptoms of a shellfish reaction. These symptoms can include swelling, skin rash, and breathing problems. Because these symptoms can be severe, and even deadly, chitosan users who experience these symptoms should seek medical attention at once.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Lainie Petersen
By Lainie Petersen , Former Writer
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an editor. With a unique educational background, she crafts engaging content and hosts podcasts and radio shows, showcasing her versatility as a media and communication professional. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any media organization.

Discussion Comments

By bear78 — On Apr 24, 2013

@fify-- It does prevent absorption of vitamins and minerals. I took it for six months and I started feeling very tired all the time. I was also getting sick frequently and had trouble remembering things. My doctor ran a blood test and I found out that I have an vitamin A, E and D deficiency.

All of these are fat soluble vitamins. This can't be a coincidence.

It's much better to change eating habits, eat less fat and lose weight the natural way. Natural and synthetic weight loss pills just don't work.

By candyquilt — On Apr 24, 2013

@fify-- I've only been taking chitosan for a few weeks so I can't say anything about its long term effects. I have already started experiencing gastro-intestinal problems from it though. I've been very bloated for the past few days and I have diarrhea.

I think while chitosan absorbs fat, it kind of messes up the digestive process and this is where these side effects are coming from.

I'm planning on giving the supplement a few more days. If the side effects of chitosan continue, I think I'm going to stop taking it.

By fify — On Apr 23, 2013

I also want to start taking chitosan for weight loss. Does anyone have experience with this supplement?

Does it really prevent the absorption of vitamins and minerals?

Lainie Petersen

Lainie Petersen

Former Writer

Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an...
Learn more
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