Chitooligosaccharide supplementation may lower cholesterol levels, rat study suggests

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / UnoL
Getty Images / UnoL
Rats with high cholesterol supplemented with oligosaccharides found in chitosan exhibited lower cholesterol levels compared to rats not supplemented.

Chitooligosaccharide refers to a type of carbohydrate (oligosaccharides) found in chitosan, which is commonly extracted from the shells of shrimp and other crustaceans.

“Until recently, the in-depth mechanisms of cholesterol-lowering and [liver protective] activities of chitooligosaccharides remain unclear,”​ the researchers wrote in their report​, published recently in the journal Food and Nutrition Research.

Led by Zhenquan Su of the Guangdong Pharmaceutical University’s Engineering Research Center of Natural Products and New Drugs, the researchers built upon previous evidence of chitosan’s cholesterol-lowering potential in rats in a 2016 study​ also co-authored by Su.

Higher dose linked to higher decrease of cholesterol

What they found was that, the higher the dose of chitooligosaccharide, the more benefits on cholesterol and liver fat levels imparted to the rats fed with high-fat diets. In some indices—changes in weight, liver fat, and body-fat ratio—high dose chitooligosaccharide fared better than rats given the drug atorvastatin, commonly used to treat high cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

In terms of serum triglyceride and cholesterol levels, the chitosanoligosaccharide supplemented rats exhibited improved levels, though not as drastic as rats medicated with atorvastatin.

“These promising findings indicated that chitooligosaccharide has potential usefulness as a natural supplement or functional food for preventing and treating hyperlipidemia,”​ they wrote.

“Although the in-depth mechanisms need further illumination, these findings will be helpful for designing new therapeutic strategies to prevent the occurrence of hyperlipidemia.”

Analyzing the capsule form

Chitosan supplements are widely available in the US, positioned as a weight management supplement.

Researchers in this present study explored capsules of the oligosaccharides of chitosan in particular because, according to them, it has enhanced stability, bioavailability, and easily identifiable molecules.

Commercial chitosan often comes from the shells of shrimp and other sea crustaceans. Photo: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / Creative Commons

Capsules used in the study were not based on commercially available ones, rather they were made in the lab using chitooligosaccharide bought from a Chinese supplier called Aokang Biotech, based in the province of Shandong.

Study details

Researchers fed 80 rats with a basic diet, before feeding 50 of them with a high fat diet to induce high cholesterol.

The fifty rats were then divided into five groups—receiving no supplementation or medication, receiving the medicine atorvastatin, and three groups each with various chitooligosaccharide levels (low with 150 mg/kg per day, medium with 300 mg /kg per day, and high with 600 mg/kg per day).

The capsules were crushed, dissolved in water, and given orally through gavage with water for six weeks.

Source: Food & Nutrition Research
Published online,
“Cholesterol-lowering effects and potential mechanisms of chitooligosaccharide capsules in hyperlipidemic rats”
Authors:​ Yao Jiang, Chuhun Fu, Guihua Liu, Jiao Guo, Zhengquan Su

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