Recently a study done at Purdue University found that eating zero-calorie fake fats may cause more weight gain than eating real fat! Specifically, the study looked at Olean, the no-calorie fake fat found in fat-free potato chips. You may know this fake fat as Olestra, the brand name used on potato chip packages. You may also remember that when potato chips made with Olestra first came out, there were lots of jokes about the embarrassing side effects of this fake fat, (which is probably why it’s not widely used).
It’s important to note that the Purdue study was done on rats not humans. It would be better to test this theory on humans but until they do that, here’s what happened in the rat study. One group of rats was given full fat potato chips and the other group was given a mix of full fat and fake fat potato chips. (This was in addition to the regular diet they were fed.) The group that was eating the fake fat chips ate more food overall, and gained more weight, than the rats who ate the full fat potato chips.
Later in the study, both groups of rats were fed a high fat diet that did not include potato chips (regular or fat free). The rats who had been eating the fake fat chips (but were no longer eating them) still ate more food and gained more weight than those who had been eating the full fat chips.
The researchers aren’t sure how to explain these results but they theorize that the fake fat interferes with how the body metabolizes food in a way that makes us retain weight. The fake fats may also make us want to eat more. (This same effect has been seen with artificial sweeteners).
This study proves once again that there are no shortcuts to weight loss. You can’t eat food made in a lab and expect your body to react in a positive way. Our bodies are equipped to eat real food—whole foods that haven’t been messed with in a lab. Just another reason to ditch the fake foods and get back to basics with a whole food diet.