Chitosan marine compound claimed to remedy obesity

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

A compound derived from the shells of crabs, shrimps and other sea crustaceans could tackle obesity, according to recent research results presented by the Irish government-funded Marine Functional Foods Research Initiative or NutraMara project in Dublin.

A linear polysaccharide composed of D-glucosamine and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine, chitosan disrupts the body’s natural mechanisms that balance the amount of food we eat against our need for energy, a Marine Institute spokesman told

It disrupts the uptake of lipids into cell membranes and blocks the body’s hunger response, he said.

Animal trials of chitosan have confirmed that the compound reduces food uptake significantly, said the institute.

Obesity related deaths

Dr Bahar Bojul, University College Dublin, who is researching chitosan said: “Obesity is a major threat to human health and a worldwide problem​.” This represents a major discovery and a possible solution for a condition that contributes to some 2,000 obesity-related deaths in Ireland alone each year, he added.

In the United States, 67 per cent of the population could be considered overweight, while 34 per cent, or one-in-three, was considered obese, according to a survey conducted in 2004.

Another survey conducted two years ago in Ireland revealed that 39 per cent of the adult population was considered overweight, with 25 per cent, or one-in-four, being considered obese.

Research into the health benefits of chitosan and other substances derived from marine animals and plants sourced around Ireland’s shores could lead to the country becoming a big player in this multi-billion euro worldwide functional foods industry industry, according to meeting staged at the Teagasc Ashtown Food Research Centre in Dublin.

Other research projects focus on milk drinks that lower blood pressure, meat products that reduce the risk of heart disease and chocolate that calms you down.

Our seas are a huge reservoir for bioactive compounds that can be incorporated into food additives which can be harnessed for human health​,” said Dr Maria Hayes, scientific project manager of the NutraMara Project.

Biofunctional peptides

Dr Pádraigín Harnedy, is researching seaweed as a source of biofunctional peptides. These are protein molecules that promote health by blocking harmful chemical pathways in the human body, such as the deposition of cholesterol in blood vessels.

“Irish seaweeds have great potential as a source of biofunctional peptides particularly with the small red seaweeds found along our shores,”​ said Dr Harnedy. “Such compounds have a wide range of positive effects on human health, including killing harmful bacteria, lowering hypertension, assisting our immune systems and preventing thrombosis​.”

A range of marine functional foods are marketed already in Japan, said the spokesman. These include Bonito Peptide supplement soup from Nippon Supplement.

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