Bad News: Olestra Could Make You Fat

Wow chipsAnother strike against “diet” foods: Olestra, a fat substitute used in popular snack foods for people on diets, may actually cause weight gain, according to new Purdue University research.

“These substitutes are meant to mimic the taste of fat in foods that are normally high in fat while providing a lower number of calories, but they may end up confusing the body,” Susan E. Smithers, a Purdue professor of psychological sciences and one of the reports two authors, said in a university press release. “We didn’t study this in people, but we found that when rats consumed a fat substitute, learned signals that could help control food intake were disrupted, and the rats gained weight as a result.

It’s weird how often processed foods designed to control weight gain end up having unintended or even completely antithetical effects. Low fat foods loaded with calories instead, low-cal foods loaded with sketchy artificial sweeteners, diet meals packed with sugars or sodium to make up for the taste. The two authors of this study previously found that when rats consumed artificial sweeteners, they were more likely to overeat.

“When the mouth tastes something sweet or fatty it tells the body to prepare for calories, and this information is key to the digestive process,” Swithers said. “This is a reminder to not discount the roles that taste and experience with food play in the way the body’s systems work together.”

Takeaway: We can’t trick our brains with synthetic ingredients like Olestra and Splenda (evolution is smarter than that). And, as always, the foods with the least calories aren’t always the best for weight-loss, and there’s no substitute for a diet full of whole, unprocessed foods.

Photo: CSPI

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