Fungi-derived chitosan for weight loss

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The prevalence of obesity has more than doubled worldwide in the past couple of decades. Herstal-based biotech company KitoZyme may have an important weapon to help win the battle of the bulge as they recently announced the successful results of their clinical trial for the weight-loss product KiOnutrime-CsG.
The burden of obesity
The WHO estimates that over 1,9 billion people were overweight in 2014 and forecasts that these numbers will continue to increase in the coming years. Surprisingly, the problem is not restricted to industrialized societies, due to rising incomes and urbanization in developing countries. The impact on public healthcare systems is devastating as obesity leads to an increase in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke and certain forms of cancer. In general terms, weight is gained by consistently consuming more calories than are expended in daily activities. However, it is not an easy task to measure this balance in the average person.  Many people maintain a busy lifestyle and struggle to find time to exercise. Additionally, people can find maintaining a healthy diet a challenge, independent of age and socioeconomic status. These factors have created a market for medical devices, nutritional supplements and drugs to help consumers meet their weight loss goals.
A less fishy production process
A promising example of a component of such medical devices is KitoZyme’s KiOnutrime-CsG. It consists of chitosan, a polysaccharide composed of β-(1,4)-linked D-glucosamine and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine. Traditionally, chitosan was produced by the chemical deacetylation of chitin that was obtained from the exoskeleton of crustaceans. The restricted supply of raw materials and heterogeneous product composition hindered its widespread application. KitoZyme has overcome these issues by developing a production process where chitosan is extracted from the cell wall of fungi that are grown on readily available vegetal substrates.
Chitosan as a fat binder
The potential applications of chitosan are very diverse, ranging from agricultural uses to self-healing polyurethane paint coatings. However, KitoZyme is focusing on healthcare applications such as digestive and cardiovascular health and weight loss. The weight loss effect of chitosan is attributed to both its ability to bind to fat in the stomach and cause an increase in satiety. Chitosan is a cationic polymer that is taken orally, then is protonated by the stomach acid and is able to bind negatively charged fats and bile acids in the intestines in significant amounts. This leads to the formation of a gel that is excreted naturally. Overall, less fat is absorbed, leading to a decreased caloric intake. The positive effects of KiOnutrime-CsG were confirmed in a multicenter clinical trial with 96 people. The participants were overweight (BMI of 26 to 35) and aged between 18 and 65 years. The treatment group was given five capsules of 500 mg KiOnutrime-CsG per day, while the control group received a placebo. Contrary to similar studies with other products, the patients maintained their usual eating habits and did not change their lifestyle. Still, weight loss was on average 3,2 kg in the group receiving treatment, compared to slight weight gain in the control group. The product is marketed to consumers as Slim MEDTM FORTE and Slim MEDTM ADVANCED. Clinical trials are ongoing.
A strong track record in growth
Kitozyme originated as a spin-off from University of Liège in 2000 and has since become the world leader in vegetal chitosan and chitin-glucan production thanks to their unique technology. Recently, the company started selling their products under their own label and won the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 award for fastest growing Belgian Biotech, Nanotech and Medtech Company of 2014. The results from their clinical support plans for further expansion of the company into India and the Middle East. (Image courtesy of Surachai at