Chitosan is a natural fibre derived from chitin that, as well as having important health benefits, also serves a surprising range of technological functions such as water treatment, use in food and beverages, agrochemicals, cosmetics and medical pharmaceuticals. It is the second most abundant polysaccharide after cellulose and typically comes from the outer shells of shell fish.
1. Fat Binder
Chitosan is commonly found in products on the market referred to as ‘fat binders’ because it reduces fat absorption from the gastrointestinal tract by binding with anionic carboxyl groups of fatty and bile acids.
Chitosan also interferes with emulsification of neutral lipids by binding them with hydrophobic bonds. It has therefore been proposed as an effective strategy for the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels. There is an authorised EFSA health claim for Chitosan: “Chitosan contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels”.
3. Anti-microbial activity
Chitosan is widely used as an anti-microbial agent because it is biodegradable and non-toxic. It has three anti-microbial mechanisms which have been suggested to occur simultaneously:
• The ionic surface interaction resulting in wall cell leakage
• The inhibition of the mRNA and protein synthesis via the penetration of chitosan into the nuclei of the microorganisms
• The formation of an external barrier, chelating metals and provoking the suppression of essential nutrients to microbial growth
4. Film forming
Chitosan has good film forming abilities. It is used in biomedical applications, as well as for encapsulation and preservation of fruits and vegetables. Edible films can be used to control moisture loss and microbial growth.
5. Fat reduction and preservation in food
Chitosan has some interesting proposed applications in sausages for fat reduction and reduction of microbial growth and lipid oxidation. As chitosan has interesting fat and water absorption capacities, it has been shown to provide greater stability and a firmer texture.
Available now from Cambridge Commodities:
• Chitosan 80 mesh – P03197
• Chitosan 100 mesh – P03183
Suitable for use in tablets, capsules, powder blends and foods.