Olestra Alert – Fake Fat Could Make You Fat
Next time you reach for a Pringles chip, skip the one with olestra.
What is Olestra?
Olestra is a synthetic fat substitute that has zero calories and passes through the body undigested. Sounds like magic: olestra in, olestra out, and no calories.
But according to researchers from Purdue University, eating olestra in low-calorie potato chips such as Pringles Light and other foods could backfire and contribute to weight gain and obesity. (Olestra is not the only artificial ingredient linked to weight gain. Read Artificial Sweeteners, Not So Sweet)
Olestra and Food Intake
The Purdue University study on olestra challenges the conventional wisdom that foods made with fat substitutes like olestra help with weight loss.
"Our research showed that fat substitutes can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate food intake, which can lead to inefficient use of calories and weight gain," said Susan E. Swithers, PhD, the lead researcher and a Purdue psychology professor. The study was published online in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience.
Why would a fat substitute like olestra confuse the body? Food with a sweet taste or fatty taste usually indicates a large number of calories, and the taste triggers various responses by the body, including salivation, hormonal secretions and metabolic reactions. Olestra can interfere with that relationship when the body expects to receive a large burst of calories but is fooled by a fat substitute.
Rising Use of Olestra
The use of artificial sweeteners and fat substitutes such as olestra has increased dramatically over the past 30 years, mirroring the increase in obesity in America. Dieters have turned to these artificial means to lower calories while still eating foods that taste sweet or fatty. So what is a dieter supposed to do to drop a size?
"Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet," Swithers said. "Eating food which is naturally low in fat and calories may be a better route than relying on fat substitutes or artificial sweeteners." (Read Worse Than Sugar: High – Fructose Corn Syrup)
"Fat Substitutes Promote Weight Gain in Rats Consuming High-Fat Diets," Susan E. Swithers, PhD, Sean B. Ogden, and Terry L. Davidson, PhD, Purdue University; Behavioral Neuroscience, Vol. 125, No. 4
The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. The journal Behavioral Neuroscience is published by the APA.