Judith Stern, a nutrition researcher at the University of California, Davis, reported to government officials here that she and a team of scientists at UC Davis' departments of nutrition and internal medicine studied the impact on male patients of chitosan dietary supplements, which are made from the protein chitin, found in the shells of invertebrates such as shrimp and crab.
The unregulated products are touted as being able to trap fat and keep it from being absorbed by the body.
Diet products containing the ingredient have proliferated in the weight-loss market in recent years, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has sued at least two companies producing chitosan-containing products for deceptive advertising.
"It's been a growing market, and its popularity is clear," said Darren Bowie, assistant director of the FTC's division of advertising practices.
Consumers spent about $6 million on fat trappers last year, according to Stern, who said that estimate was conservative.
Stern briefed Department of Agriculture consumer and nutrition officials Thursday of her findings.
But an attorney for one company sued by the FTC complained that Stern's study was flawed, pointing out that it was funded in part by the Napa County district attorney, who also has sued a chitosan supplement company.
That makes it "biased to the extent that it purports to be an impartial scientific study," said Edward Glynn, who is representing Enforma Natural Products, an Encino, Calif., company that was sued and ultimately settled with the FTC.
The UC Davis researchers studied seven healthy men who consumed more than 120 grams of fat daily. Researchers analyzed the fat content of their feces, comparing a four-day baseline period -- without the supplements -- with a four-day period when chitosan supplements were consumed.
"The bottom line is that chitosan made zero difference," Stern said.
Stern is a member of an obesity task force of the National Institutes of Health and has worked with the FTC in helping to establish a coalition of government, industry and nonprofit groups trying to draft voluntary standards for the weight-control industry.(c) 2001 HeraldNet
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