WASHINGTON, January 24, 1996 -- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new fat substitute, called "olestra," for use in certain snack foods.
Olestra, which will be marketed under the trade name "Olean," is an unique chemical which reportedly adds no fat or calories to food. It will be used to develop new lines of snack foods that are lower in fat and calories than traditional snacks made with natural fats. These new lines will include snacks, such as potato chips, crackers, and tortilla chips.
FDA Commissioner, David A. Kessler, M.D., was quoted as saying, "olestra may cause abdominal cramping and loose stools in some individuals, and inhibits the body's absorption of certain fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients." He also said, "FDA is requiring Proctor & Gamble and other manufacturers who use olestra to label all foods made with it , and, to protect the public health, to add essential vitamins--Vitamins A, D, E and K--to olestra." Each of these issues will be described on all products in the form of warning labels.
Clinical testing reportedly has shown that olestra absorbs fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E and K) from foods eaten simultaneously. Replacement vitamins added to the olestra- containing products reportedly compensates for the losses.
Olestra also reduces absorption of carotene, a nutrient found in carrots, sweet potato and leafy green vegetables. Further studies will be submitted to the FDA which will address the significance of this effect. Proctor & Gamble originally submitted their petition to the FDA in 1987, and studies of the product have been ongoing since then.
The Medical Editors of MedicineNet.com would caution the following patients to consult their doctors before using olestra- containing products: those are using the blood thinning medication, warfarin (Coumadin); those with pre-existing diarrhea illness or abdominal pain; or those with disease of the small bowel, such as Crohn's disease, or gluten-sensitive enteropathy (sprue). (For more information on these conditions visit the MedicineNet.com Medications area, Crohn's Disease Center, and Celiac Sprue Center.)