Olestra – What Is It and What Can It Mean for Health

Some time back Olestra was hailed as the dieter’s dream come true. This was a fat or a cooking that the body did not digest and passed on through the system and excreted it without absorbing it. Sounded wonderful, that you could finally consume those deep fried chicken nuggets and the potato crisps without guilt or expanding waistlines.

Olestra goes under the brand name Olean; a fat substitute that adds no calories, cholesterol or fat to foods. In the 90’s Olestra became rather popular with people who wanted to eat without fear of putting on weight. However the initial popularity of Olestra soon lessened for several reasons:olestra

There were some side effects of Olestra

Abdominal cramping and diarrhea are some of the most commonly experienced side effects of consuming Olestra.

Along with the fat not being absorbed during digestion, certain other nutrients as well, such as vitamins and so on are also unable to be digested due to the Olestra.

Caroteniod depletion became a major concern with Olestra consumption and various studies showed that this was the case.

A statutory warning to this effect is required to be placed on packages as well. Oily stools or a condition known as Steatorrhea were another unpleasant side effect of Olestra. Since the fat in the food was unable to be absorbed by the intestines, it was excreted along with the stools which could be perceptibly oily.

Other problems with Olestra

One of the apprehensions with Olestra is that people tend to eat unhealthy foods in the misguided notion that they are in fact eating something healthy when in fact they are not. So far from reducing caloric uptake among people, Olestra seemed to have the unwelcome effect of making people eat more of unhealthy foods.

Olestra was seen to have the same problem as was seen with sugar substitutes: the calories are cut, but there is no weight loss; in fact the negative health impact seems to increase. Not only are the substitutes seemingly bad for health, they seem to egg people on to eat less healthy with less guilt.

Is Olestra still used?

Manufacturers who touted the marvelous ability of Olestra to leave the body without being digested soon realized that the side effects seemed to outweigh any possible benefits of this fat substitute.  Most manufacturers who were using Olestra stopped doing so, however what is available as “light chips” may still contain Olestra, and brands such as Pringles and Lays do still list Olestra as an ingredient in their ingredients list.