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Fat substitutes linked to weight gain
Date:6/20/2011

WASHINGTON 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.

The study, by researchers at Purdue University, challenges the conventional wisdom that foods made with fat substitutes help with weight loss. "Our research showed that fat substitutes can interfere with the body's ability to regulate food intake, which can lead to inefficient use of calories and weight gain," said Susan E. Swithers, PhD, the lead researcher and a Purdue psychology professor. The study was published online in the APA journal Behavioral Neuroscience.

The study used laboratory rats that were fed either a high-fat or low-fat diet of chow. Half of the rats in each group also were fed Pringles potato chips that are high in fat and calories. The remaining rats in each group were fed high-calorie Pringles chips on some days and low-calorie Pringles Light chips on other days. The Pringles Light chips are made with olestra, a synthetic fat substitute that has zero calories and passes through the body undigested.

For rats on the high-fat diet, the group that ate both types of potato chips consumed more food, gained more weight and developed more fatty tissue than the rats that ate only the high-calorie chips. The fat rats also didn't lose the extra weight even after the potato chips were removed from their diet. "Based on this data, a diet that is low in fat and calories might be a better strategy for weight loss than using fat substitutes," Swithers said. However, she warned that it can be difficult to extrapolate laboratory findings about rats to people, even though their biological responses to food are similar. The study was conducted by Swithers along with Purdue psychology professor Terry L. Davidson, PhD, and former Purdue undergraduate student Sean Ogden.

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Contact: APA Public Affairs
public.affairs@apa.org
202-336-5700
American Psychological Association
Source:Eurekalert

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