Review article: olestra and its gastrointestinal safety
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Olestra is a fat substitute made from sucrose and vegetable oil. Olestra is neither digested nor absorbed, and therefore adds no calories or fat to the diet. Because the gut is the only organ that is exposed to olestra, the potential for olestra to affect gastrointestinal structure and function, and the absorption of nutrients from the gut, has been investigated. Histological evaluations performed after long-term feeding studies have shown no indications that olestra causes injury to the gastrointestinal mucosa. Olestra is not metabolized by the colonic microflora, and has no meaningful effects on the metabolic function of these organisms. Studies of gastrointestinal transit have shown that the consumption of olestra with food does not affect gastric emptying, or small or large bowel transit times. Olestra does not affect the absorption of macronutrients, water-soluble vitamins or minerals. It causes a dose-responsive decrease in the availability of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K; however, this potentially adverse effect is offset by the addition of vitamins to olestra-containing foods. Olestra has no consistent effect on the amount of total bile acids excreted in the faeces, and therefore probably has no significant effect on bile acid absorption. The occurrence of gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhoea, loose stools, gas and abdominal cramping, after consumption of olestra under ordinary snacking conditions is comparable to that following consumption of triglyceride-containing snacks.
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