Are Diet Foods Fueling America’s Obesity Epidemic?

How’s this for irony: Foods that contain artificial fats intended to help people prevent weight gain may actually make you fat, says a recent study conducted by Purdue University.

The study researchers looked at Olestra—the faux fat used in processed junk foods like potato chips and cookies (bad for you on a whole lot of levels regardless of fat content!). “When we get cues that something is fatty, but no calories arrive – like with fat substitutes – our body gets confused,” says Dr. Susan E. Swithers, professor of psychology at Purdue and lead researcher in the study.

Researchers used Pringles brand potato chips and their Olestra-laden Pringles Light version, and found that the groups given the Olestra chips gained more weight and had increased difficulty losing the weight even after the chips were no longer a part of their diet.” When a food tastes fatty, our body gets a signal that a large number of calories are coming. It triggers metabolic reactions and various hormonal secretions anticipating fat, calories, and other food nutrients that it would process. Fake fats interfere with this regulation,” according to Swithers. “This confusion can make the body stop preparing to digest fatty food when it does come.”

While banned in the UK and Canada, Olestra is still available in the U.S. Organizations including the Center for Science in the Public Interest have been pushing to have it banned here, but it remains on the shelves. Olestra (also Olean) was discovered “by accident” by Proctor and Gamble food scientists. It’s synthesized from sucrose and made to bond with a number of fatty acids, thereby becoming too large to be absorbed through the intestinal wall so it passes through the GI-tract undigested, contributing no caloric gain. It is also known for serious side effects, including intense abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and may cause malabsorption or deficiency in key nutrients.

Diet soda may also contribute to weight gain. Recently, researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Centerpresented strong data proving that diet soda added weight to people who were frequent drinkers of diet sodas. The research concluded that there is a “41% increase in risk of being overweight for every can or bottle of diet soft drink a person consumes each day.” Read the whole article here

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Photo: TheDeliciousLife