Olestra Technically speaking, it was to be the something that was supposedly going to change the world. Stock analysts even proclaimed it as being the 'single most important discovery in the history of the food industry', and would generate over a billion dollars annually in sales becoming Procter and Gambles, the creators, best selling product. What is not to like about a product which replaces the fat content in previously named junk food such as potato chips? Apparently quite a bit. Olestra was first invented in 1968 as a way of increasing an infants intake of fat. This is when they stumbled upon a special which was actually the hex a, he pta, and oct a-esters of fatty acid of sucrose.
These molecules are so big and fatty, that the body cannot be metabolized by the body by enzymes and bacteria in the intestine, and as a result is not digested or absorbed. Instead of increasing fat intake, this chemical replaced it. Almost 30 years later, Olestra was finally given approval by the FDA to be used in food, however, with the condition of a warning label indicating the product can in duse upset stomach and loose stools, as well as inhibiting the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. For a product that was supposed to be perfect, what happened? Studies conducted prior, first with mice, had somewhat alarming results which indicated that in addition to the first two problems stated, Olestra can cause cancer. The reason for this is that the product interferes with the bodies natural absorption of carotenoids which are found in fruits in vegetables, which help the body fight against cancer. Studies in humans showed that people who consumed 2 grams of Olestra per day had 15% lower level of carotenoids in their body than those who didnt eat them.
A regular sized bag of chips made with Olestra however, contain over 15 grams. Further studies shown that when given Olestra doses every day included in every meal, levels dropped over 60%. Once Olestra hit the market, the FDA relieved more than 1000 reports of the food causing adverse reactions, yet Procter and Gamble still maintain the product is harmless. To perhaps nobodies surprise, 'fake-fat' containing products relieved initial high sales, but quickly plummeted due to both the media and word of mouth on its affects, as well as the warning label and relative high price.
Procter and Gamble initially anticipated spreading the wonder chemical to foods other than snack foods, but public interested was too low. Over 200 million went into the development of Olestra over the years, and it seems as of late that it will only die a slow death. The main argument against Olestra is that it is simply unnatural, and, a well-balanced diet and exercise are always the better option. Perhaps we just got too greedy along the way and were looking for an easy way out in nutrition.