Chips with olestra cause body toxins to dip

Animation of a rotating olestra structure. Credit: public domain

According to a clinical trial led by University of Cincinnati researchers, a snack food ingredient called olestra has been found to speed up the removal of toxins in the body.

Results are reported in the April edition of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

The trial demonstrated that olestra—a zero-calorie fat substitute found in low-calorie snack foods such as Pringles—could reduce the levels of serum polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in people who had been exposed to PCBs.

High levels of PCBs in the body are associated with an increase in hypertension and diabetes.

"The findings showed that the rate of PCB disappearance from the participants that ate olestra was markedly faster during the one-year trial than that before the trial," says principal investigator Ronald Jandacek, PhD, an adjunct professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at UC's College of Medicine.

Olestra (brand name Olean) is a nonabsorbable fat product that Procter & Gamble developed in collaboration with UC and was introduced in snack foods (most notably Pringles) in 1996. Early reports of indigestion issues, however, prompted reformulation of the product prior to its market entry. The Kellogg Company purchased the Pringles brand in 2012.

"Olestra is a fat that passes through the body and remarkably it has revealed a potential health benefit of removing PCBs. Our early work with animal studies predicted that we would see this effect in people," Jandacek says of the clinical trial.

Twenty-eight residents Anniston, Ala., who had known high levels of PCBs participated in the yearlong study. Half of the participants consumed 12 Pringles a day made with vegetable oil, and the other half consumed 24 Pringles a day made with olestra. The serving sizes varied to control for calorie count.

According to the results, the half who ate the olestra chips had a PCB rate of decrease of 8 percent, an eight-fold increase in the rate of removal prior to the study compared with those who ate the chips with vegetable oil, who had a 1 percent increase in the rate of removal.

"Olestra's effect on PCB removal is apparently the result of solubilizing fat-soluble compounds like PCBs in the intestine and the solubilization reduces absorption of these compounds into the body," says Jandacek, who was the principal investigator on a 2005 study that found that olestra removed toxins from animals.

Jandacek was first introduced to researchers and community advocates studying the health of residents in Anniston in 2008. The Alabama town was once the main production site for a factory that made PCBs. Since Jandacek had already facilitated the use of olestra in the removal of PCBs from animals and a patient in Australia, he joined with the clinical research group of James Heubi, MD, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, UC's Department of Pediatrics and the UC Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training; researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and nearby Jacksonville State University College of Nursing to pursue the human trial.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fat substitutes linked to weight gain

Jun 20, 2011

Synthetic fat substitutes used in low-calorie potato chips and other foods could backfire and contribute to weight gain and obesity, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association.

PCBs still affecting our health decades later

Nov 25, 2013

Although PCBs have been banned in the United States since 1979, University of Montreal and CHU Sainte-Justine researcher Maryse Bouchard has found that higher levels of the toxin was associated with lower cognitive performance ...

Recommended for you

The hunt for botanicals

Dec 19, 2014

Herbal medicine can be a double-edged sword and should be more rigorously investigated for both its beneficial and harmful effects, say researchers writing in a special supplement of Science.

Mozambique decriminalises abortion to stem maternal deaths

Dec 19, 2014

Mozambique has passed a law permitting women to terminate unwanted pregnancies under specified conditions, a move hailed by activists in a country where clandestine abortions account for a large number of maternal deaths.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.