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Olestra

Olestra

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Olestra is a fat substitute that adds no fat, calories, or cholesterol to products. It has been used in the preparation of traditionally high-fat foods such as potato chip
Potato chip
Potato chips are thin slices of potato that are deep fried...

s, thereby lowering or eliminating their fat content. In the late 1990s, Olestra lost its popularity due to side effects, but products containing the ingredient can still be purchased at grocery stores.

Commercialization


Olestra was accidentally discovered by Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble is a Fortune 500 American multinational corporation headquartered in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio and manufactures a wide range of consumer goods....

 (P&G) researchers F. Mattson and R. Volpenhein in 1968 while researching fats that could be more easily digested by premature infants. In 1971, P&G met with the Food and Drug Administration
Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments...

 (FDA) to examine what sort of testing would be required to introduce olestra as a food additive
Food additive
Food additives are substances added to food to preserve flavor or enhance its taste and appearance.Some additives have been used for centuries; for example, preserving food by pickling , salting, as with bacon, preserving sweets or using sulfur dioxide as in some wines...

.

During the following tests, P&G noticed a decline in blood cholesterol
Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a complex isoprenoid. Specifically, it is a waxy steroid of fat that is produced in the liver or intestines. It is used to produce hormones and cell membranes and is transported in the blood plasma of all mammals. It is an essential structural component of mammalian cell membranes...

 levels as a side effect of olestra replacing natural dietary fats. Following this potentially lucrative possibility, in 1975, P&G filed a new request with the FDA to use olestra as a "drug", specifically to lower cholesterol levels. However, the lengthy series of studies that followed failed to demonstrate the 15% reduction required by the FDA to be approved as a treatment. Further work on olestra languished.

In 1984, the FDA allowed Kellogg to publicly claim their high-fiber breakfast cereal
Breakfast cereal
A breakfast cereal is a food made from processed grains that is often, but not always, eaten with the first meal of the day. It is often eaten cold, usually mixed with milk , water, or yogurt, and sometimes fruit but sometimes eaten dry. Some cereals, such as oatmeal, may be served hot as porridge...

s were effective in reducing the risk of cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

. P&G immediately started another test series that lasted three years. When these tests were completed, P&G filed for approval as a food additive for up to 35% replacement of fats in home cooking and 75% in commercial uses.

One of the main concerns the FDA had about olestra was it might encourage consumers to eat more of the "top of the pyramid
Food pyramid
Food pyramid may refer to:*Food guide pyramid, a core concept in nutritional guides around the world.**MyPyramid, the USDA's 2005 version of the food guide pyramid.**MyPlate, replaces the MyPyramid and was introduced by the USDA in 2011....

" foods due to the perception of its being healthier. This could result in consumers engaging in over-consumption, thinking the addition of olestra would remove negative consequences. In light of this fact, approving it as an additive would have meant consumers would be consuming a food with a relatively high amount of an additive, whose long-term health effects were not documented. This made the FDA particularly hesitant to approve the product, as well as the side effects, such as diarrhea
Diarrhea
Diarrhea , also spelled diarrhoea, is the condition of having three or more loose or liquid bowel movements per day. It is a common cause of death in developing countries and the second most common cause of infant deaths worldwide. The loss of fluids through diarrhea can cause dehydration and...

, and concern for the loss of fat-soluble vitamins. In August 1990, P&G narrowed their focus to "savory snacks", potato chip
Potato chip
Potato chips are thin slices of potato that are deep fried...

s, tortilla chip
Tortilla chip
A tortilla chip is a snack food made from corn tortillas, which are cut into wedges and then fried . Corn tortillas are made of corn, vegetable oil, salt and water. Although first mass-produced in Los Angeles in the late 1940s, tortilla chips are considered to be a Mexican food, known as tostados...

s, cracker
Cracker (food)
A cracker is a baked good commonly made from grain flour dough and typically made in quantity in various hand-sized or smaller shapes. Flavorings or seasonings, such as salt, herbs, seeds, and/or cheese, may be added to the dough or sprinkled on top before baking...

s and similar foods.

By this point, the original patents were getting close to their 1995 expiration, so P&G lobbied for an extension, which they received in December 1993. This extension lasted until 25 January 1996. Under pressure, the approval was finally granted on 24 January, one day before the patent ran out, thereby automatically extending the patent another two years.

As of 2011, the Lay's Light
Lay's
Lay's is the brand name for a number of potato chip varieties as well as the name of the company that founded the chip brand in 1932. Lay's chips has been marketed as a division of Frito-Lay, a company owned by PepsiCo since 1965...

 chips are still available, listing olestra as an ingredient. Pringles
Pringles
Pringles is a brand of potato and wheat based snacks originally developed by Procter & Gamble. Pringles are sold in more than 140 countries and have yearly sales of more than...

 Light potato crisps, manufactured by P&G, use Olean brand olestra.

Side effects


Olestra was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as a food additive in 1996, and was initially used in potato chips under the WOW brand by Frito Lay. In 1998, the first year olestra products were marketed nationally after the FDA's Food Advisory Committee confirmed a judgment it made two years earlier, sales were over $400 million. By 2000, though, sales slowed to $200 million, largely caused by the unappealing side effects described on the FDA-mandated health warning label "This Product Contains Olestra. Olestra may cause abdominal
Abdomen
In vertebrates such as mammals the abdomen constitutes the part of the body between the thorax and pelvis. The region enclosed by the abdomen is termed the abdominal cavity...

 cramp
Cramp
Cramps are unpleasant, often painful sensations caused by muscle contraction or over shortening. Common causes of skeletal muscle cramps include muscle fatigue, low sodium, and low potassium...

ing and loose stool
Feces
Feces, faeces, or fæces is a waste product from an animal's digestive tract expelled through the anus or cloaca during defecation.-Etymology:...

s. Olestra inhibits the absorption of some vitamins and other nutrients. Vitamins A
Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a vitamin that is needed by the retina of the eye in the form of a specific metabolite, the light-absorbing molecule retinal, that is necessary for both low-light and color vision...

, D
Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids. In humans, vitamin D is unique both because it functions as a prohormone and because the body can synthesize it when sun exposure is adequate ....

, E
Vitamin E
Vitamin E is used to refer to a group of fat-soluble compounds that include both tocopherols and tocotrienols. There are many different forms of vitamin E, of which γ-tocopherol is the most common in the North American diet. γ-Tocopherol can be found in corn oil, soybean oil, margarine and dressings...

, and K
Vitamin K
Vitamin K is a group of structurally similar, fat soluble vitamins that are needed for the posttranslational modification of certain proteins required for blood coagulation and in metabolic pathways in bone and other tissue. They are 2-methyl-1,4-naphthoquinone derivatives...

 have been added."

This symptom (normally occurring only by excessive consumption in a short period of time, or in disease) is known as steatorrhea
Steatorrhea
Steatorrhea is the presence of excess fat in feces. Stools may also float due to excess lipid, have an oily appearance and be especially foul-smelling. An oily anal leakage or some level of fecal incontinence may occur. There is increased fat excretion, which can be measured by determining the...

. Sales were so slow, P&G abandoned attempts to widen the uses of olestra, and sold off their Cincinnati-based factory to Twin Rivers Technologies in February 2002.

The FDA removed the warning requirement in 2003, as it had "conducted a scientific review of several post-market studies submitted by P&G, as well as adverse event reports submitted by P&G and the Center for Science in the Public Interest
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Center for Science in the Public Interest is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit watchdog and consumer advocacy group focusing on nutritional education and awareness.-History and funding:...

. The FDA concluded the label statement was no longer warranted", in spite of having received over 20,000 complaints. When removing the olestra warning label, the FDA cited a six-week P&G study of more than 3000 people showing the olestra-eating group experienced only a small increase in bowel movement frequency
Defecation
Defecation is the final act of digestion by which organisms eliminate solid, semisolid or liquid waste material from the digestive tract via the anus. Waves of muscular contraction known as peristalsis in the walls of the colon move fecal matter through the digestive tract towards the rectum...

 compared to the control group.

P&G also worked hard in its publicity campaigns to highlight the positives of the additive, including working directly with the health-care community. In addition to the popular culture disapproval of the product, many consumers simply did not see the speedy results for which they had hoped from a product they saw as being a cure-all, because olestra only addressed the fat component of the overall dietary pattern of Americans. Foods containing olestra do not contain calories from fats, and many Americans believed they could eat more of them to compensate for the fat calories "saved". Eating olestra chips was not a particularly effective way to improve one's diet overall.

Olestra is banned in many countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada.

Chemistry


Triglyceride
Triglyceride
A triglyceride is an ester derived from glycerol and three fatty acids. There are many triglycerides, depending on the oil source, some are highly unsaturated, some less so....

s, the energy-yielding dietary fat
Fat
Fats consist of a wide group of compounds that are generally soluble in organic solvents and generally insoluble in water. Chemically, fats are triglycerides, triesters of glycerol and any of several fatty acids. Fats may be either solid or liquid at room temperature, depending on their structure...

s, consist of three fatty acid
Fatty acid
In chemistry, especially biochemistry, a fatty acid is a carboxylic acid with a long unbranched aliphatic tail , which is either saturated or unsaturated. Most naturally occurring fatty acids have a chain of an even number of carbon atoms, from 4 to 28. Fatty acids are usually derived from...

s bonded to a glycerol
Glycerol
Glycerol is a simple polyol compound. It is a colorless, odorless, viscous liquid that is widely used in pharmaceutical formulations. Glycerol has three hydroxyl groups that are responsible for its solubility in water and its hygroscopic nature. The glycerol backbone is central to all lipids...

 "backbone". Because olestra is synthesized from sucrose
Sucrose
Sucrose is the organic compound commonly known as table sugar and sometimes called saccharose. A white, odorless, crystalline powder with a sweet taste, it is best known for its role in human nutrition. The molecule is a disaccharide composed of glucose and fructose with the molecular formula...

, it can bond with six, seven, or eight fatty acids. The resulting radial arrangement is too large and irregular to move through the intestinal wall and be absorbed. Olestra has the same taste and mouthfeel
Mouthfeel
Mouthfeel is a product's physical and chemical interaction in the mouth, an aspect of food rheology. It is a concept used in many areas related to the testing and evaluating of foodstuffs, such as wine-tasting and rheology. It is evaluated from initial perception on the palate, to first bite,...

 as fat, but it passes through the gastrointestinal tract
Gastrointestinal tract
The human gastrointestinal tract refers to the stomach and intestine, and sometimes to all the structures from the mouth to the anus. ....

 undigested without contributing calories or nutritive value to the diet.

From a mechanical point of view, scientists were able to manipulate the compound in such a way that it could be used in place of cooking oils in the preparation of many types of food.

Since it contains fatty acid functional group
Functional group
In organic chemistry, functional groups are specific groups of atoms within molecules that are responsible for the characteristic chemical reactions of those molecules. The same functional group will undergo the same or similar chemical reaction regardless of the size of the molecule it is a part of...

s, olestra is able to dissolve lipid-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin D
Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids. In humans, vitamin D is unique both because it functions as a prohormone and because the body can synthesize it when sun exposure is adequate ....

, vitamin E
Vitamin E
Vitamin E is used to refer to a group of fat-soluble compounds that include both tocopherols and tocotrienols. There are many different forms of vitamin E, of which γ-tocopherol is the most common in the North American diet. γ-Tocopherol can be found in corn oil, soybean oil, margarine and dressings...

, vitamin K
Vitamin K
Vitamin K is a group of structurally similar, fat soluble vitamins that are needed for the posttranslational modification of certain proteins required for blood coagulation and in metabolic pathways in bone and other tissue. They are 2-methyl-1,4-naphthoquinone derivatives...

, and vitamin A
Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a vitamin that is needed by the retina of the eye in the form of a specific metabolite, the light-absorbing molecule retinal, that is necessary for both low-light and color vision...

, along with carotenoid
Carotenoid
Carotenoids are tetraterpenoid organic pigments that are naturally occurring in the chloroplasts and chromoplasts of plants and some other photosynthetic organisms like algae, some bacteria, and some types of fungus. Carotenoids can be synthesized fats and other basic organic metabolic building...

s. Fat-soluble nutrients consumed with olestra products are excreted with the undigested olestra molecules. To counteract this loss of nutrients, products made with olestra are fortified with oil-soluble vitamins.

Applications


P&G is marketing its sucrose ester products under the brand "Sefose" for use as an industrial lubricant and paint additive. Because olestra is made by chemically combining sugar and vegetable oil, it releases no toxic fumes and could potentially become a safe and environmentally friendly replacement for petrochemical
Petrochemical
Petrochemicals are chemical products derived from petroleum. Some chemical compounds made from petroleum are also obtained from other fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, or renewable sources such as corn or sugar cane....

s in these applications. It is currently used as a base for deck stains and a lubricant for small power tools, and there are plans to use it on larger machinery.

In 1999, researchers discovered olestra helps facilitate the removal of dioxins
Dioxins and dioxin-like compounds
Dioxins and dioxin-like compounds are by-products of various industrial processes, and are commonly regarded as highly toxic compounds that are environmental pollutants and persistent organic pollutants . They include:...

 from the body, as it apparently binds to dioxins in a manner similar to that of normal fats. This unexpected side effect may make the substance useful in treating victims of dioxin poisoning.

Recent research by groups at University of Cincinnati
University of Cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati is a comprehensive public research university in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a part of the University System of Ohio....

 School of Medicine in Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

 and the University of Western Australia
University of Western Australia
The University of Western Australia was established by an Act of the Western Australian Parliament in February 1911, and began teaching students for the first time in 1913. It is the oldest university in the state of Western Australia and the only university in the state to be a member of the...

 indicated olestra can be used to treat PCB
Polychlorinated biphenyl
Polychlorinated biphenyls are a class of organic compounds with 2 to 10 chlorine atoms attached to biphenyl, which is a molecule composed of two benzene rings. The chemical formula for PCBs is C12H10-xClx...

 poisoning, including chloracne
Chloracne
Chloracne is an acne-like eruption of blackheads, cysts, and pustules associated with over-exposure to certain halogenated aromatic compounds, such as chlorinated dioxins and dibenzofurans...

symptoms.

External links