I recently chanced upon a web ad for chitosan, claimed to be
a “Fat Magnet”, which would let one eat fatty foods and lose
weight. Looked like another magic pill. So I turned to my handy
Google.Com search engine for information.
Chitosan is processed from chitin, mostly obtained from
crushed shellfish shells, crab shells, and similar. Chitosan
is a polymer with structure similar to cellulose. It has
applications in industry, such as to hold catalysts.
The national governments of both Britain and the USA have
taken legal actions against makers and sellers of chitosan
as a diet supplement, because claims that fat absorption can
be blocked by ingesting chitosan have been tested and proven
false. Yet many internet sites are still selling this snake-
oil medicine. I wonder why that is. Don’t the good guys win
and make the bad guys go away?
One of the diet sales sites told me that chitosan is an
extract of crushed shellfish shells, and can ionically
attract “negatively charged fat like a magnet”. For
starters, the mechanism of magnets does not involve ions or
An example does come to mind in which ions interact with
fats, namely the making and use of soaps.
Again, let’s turn to the handy Google.Com search engine.
Soap was discovered at least four thousand years ago, and
many times in many places since then. Soap was not always
used to clean, sometimes the soft form being used to treat
open wounds, or as a hair dressing, for two examples. One
way for soap to form is for fat drippings from a cooking
fire to combine with water and the alkali existing in wood
ashes. This alkali is hydroxide of sodium and potassium.
One legend says that rain water falling on fire altars
used for animal sacrifice to gods caused soap to form and
flow into streams that were then discovered to be good for
A molecule of soap consists of a molecule of fatty acid
(carbon and hydrogen atoms) chemically combined with an atom
of sodium or potassium, with some other atoms, such as
oxygen, tied in. The chemical process involves the exchange
of electrons among the parts, said parts being identifiable
as positive and negative ions. Soft fats tend to make softer
soaps than solid fats. Potassium makes softer soaps than
Soap helps in cleaning because it helps fat to emulsify (or
soponify or saponify) in water, that is the fat molecules
become distributed in water containing soap. The alkali end
of the soap molecule loves water, and the fat end is
attracted to fat. If the fats to be removed start out in
solid form, the water can be heated.
Many recipes can be found through Google search for making
soap. Some include boric acid, sodium carbonate, aromatic
oils, added heat, and so forth, along with water, fat, and
alkali. Be warned that sodium and potassium hydroxide are
caustics which can attack skin, aluminum pans, et cetera.
Lye, or sodium hydroxide, is well known as a drain cleaner,
and can cause burns, even death, if used carelessly. Simply
pouring lye and liquid fat together can make a smelly, hot
mess, not yet a usable soap.
Does the ability of soap to emulsify fats make it a dietary
supplement to reduce fat absorption? I don’t think so. Even
if it did work, I can’t see myself eating enough soap to
deal with fatty food consumption. Soap solution would
probably act as a very powerful laxative, because it can be
used for enemas.
Thus, I conclude that “Fat Magnets” are just another magic
trick that does not work. I add them to the following list.
“Fat Burners”: Anyone who has read my books or articles on
health knows that the body’s “FBs” are “FIBs”. Therefore,
magic pills, foods, food combinations to “turn up your fat
burners” are like any other magic, just tricks.
“Fat Blocker” / “Starch Blocker”: I have yet to read of any
dietary supplement for blocking absorption of starches or
fats which (1) works, and (2) does so without severe health
As described in my “Easy Health Diet”, the best way for
reducing fat in the body is to not eat much fat (or other
concentrated calories). Prevention is far more powerful than
cure. There are plenty of foods low in fat, sugar, and
alcohol, to fill up on.
AN OBSERVATION: crushed shellfish shells ARE a good source
for calcium, but not the most readily absorbed form. Farmers
feed it to chickens to provide calcium while also providing
grit for the birds’ food grinding process in the gizzard.
Egg layers need a lot of calcium for the shells.
** Diet with FACTS, not MYTHS. **