March 1997
s m u g
by Leslie Harpold

No Free Lunches

It sounds like a musical to me. I imagine scads of scantily clad showgirls with big headresses kicking it Vegas Style as they dance and sing the praises of Olestra®, the fat substitute.

Oh! Oh! O- Les- Tra - eat it up and the pounds melt right away! And your favorite treat - will taste more sweet, when you know that it will not make you gain!

Yeah, something like that. But right when the curtain for the second act is about to go up - the stage manager realizes that there's no one there to go on stage - the babes are duking it out in the ladies room for a seat - foolish chicks actually ate the stuff!


Oops, did we forget to mention that? Our good friends at Proctor & Gamble bring up this lovely fat substitute that will make us sick. And the government says that's okay. As long as they remember to warn us, we deserve everything we get, right?

Here's a little more info:

In June, the FDA approved a new fake fat - Olestra®. Unlike some of the earlier substitute fats like Simplesse and Avicel, which are already on the market, Olestra® doesn't get absorbed by the body; but it still goes through the digestive track. Since it doesn't get absorbed it goes straight through our digestive system. This miracle fat (as some people call it), was developed by Proctor & Gamble. It works by being so indigestible that it wholly bypasses any means that would allow your body to absorb it.

One of the most important things is that these fake fats reduce the fat and calories while keeping the texture of real fat. While most of the other fats substitutes can't withstand the cooking temperatures like natural fats, Olestra® seems to be able to. Since Olestra® is chemically made with sucrose and fatty acids, it is a lot like natural fat in chemical composition and can withstand these temperatures.

Did I mention it caused liver cancer in some of the animal testing groups?

This stuff has been around since 1975 when Proctor & Gamble went to the FDA to get it approved as a drug and it failed repeatedly so they gave up in 1988. In 1987, they attempted to gain approval as a calorie free substitute for cooking oil, and under the guise of being in the food category, it passed. It was planned to begin the marketing in 1990 in cheese puffs and cookies, but then the FDA pulled its approval pending further testing.

Miracle or Debacle?

Well, what could possibly be wrong with it if it saves a few calories? For starters, it seriously depletes the body's vitamin supply of vitamins A, D, E and K. If you eat eighteen Olestra® (also known by the brand name Olean®) potato chips a day your blood cartenoid levels will reduce by 50%. In another study, it only took six chips a day to reduce beta carotene levels by 50%. If you have a bleeding disorder, your depletion of vitamin K could be very serious. In some animal studies it caused liver cancer. In another, it caused lung cancer. But you'll die thin! If you think that will help keep the pounds off, try chemotherapy!

Proctor & Gamble Says This:

On January 24, 1996, Proctor & Gamble introduced Olean® brand fat replacer, a breakthrough, calorie-free fat replacement ingredient that can fully replace the added fat and cut calories in salted snacks and crackers, while still delivering great taste.

For those who enjoy snack foods, Olean® will provide new options that have little or no fat and far fewer calories. For example, a bag of potato chips made with Olean® will contain 0 grams of fat and about 70 calories - compared with a one-ounce bag of regular potato chips which contains 10 grams of fat and about 150 calories.

And I haven't even mentioned the part of the warning where they warn you about anal leakage.

Does this mean that I can no longer trust my body to warn me of its major functions if I want a few Pringles? I think my life will be a little better - not to mention less embarrassing - without a snack - thanks. The sin of all sins - being fat - is worth whatever suffering we must endure to avoid it.

Who will buy this stuff? Plenty of people.

Who are these folks? We can kid ourselves and say that all kinds of people will buy Olean®.

Women. Women of all sizes and shapes who are fat, fear fat, think they are fat, - all manner of women. There will be male consumers of Olean® enhanced foods, certainly, but all the marketing, all the literature for low fat, low calorie, sugar and hazard free food has been directed at women. There is no reason this should be any different. As it stands, I have to admit that Elle MacPherson in "Sirens" epitomized my feminine ideal. Is that right? Perhaps not. Is that honest - is that the answer I get when I dig deep into my soul and ask who'd like to be staring back at me in the mirror every day? Yes. This raises - yet again - the timeless question...

"What Price Beauty?"

Well, if loss of valuable nutrients, cancer risk, anal leakage, stained underwear, diarrhea, and stomache cramps are the toll, you can bet I won't be munching on any enhanced foodstuffs. The kicker is that P&G knew that no matter how awful the side effects people would buy. Any small glimmer of hope in the battle of the bulge is marketable. Is that Proctor & Gamble's fault? No. That's a whole other subject. However, this goes beyond capitalism and well into a certain kind of mass maiming. Because the clear message here is no matter how unpleasant you feel, no matter what the toll on your health is - being thin is the ultimate goal. Call me crazy, but doesn't that totally negate the thin is healthier argument?

It's all a dangerous game, and I'm not willing to play.

back to the junk drawer

and such
and such

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