Fat substitutes in snacks may trigger weight gain

Fat substitutes in snacks may trigger weight gain

"These substitutes are meant to mimic the taste of fat in foods that are normally high in fat while providing a lower number of calories, but they may end up confusing the body," said Susan E. Swithers, professor of psychological sciences at Purdue.

"Substituting a part of the diet with a similar tasting item that has fewer or zero calories sounds like a common-sense approach to lose weight, but there are other physiological functions at work," Swithers added, reports the journal Behavioral Neuroscience.

In this study, lab rats received crushed potato chips as a dietary supplement, and then they were divided into two groups that were given either a low-fat chow diet or a high-fat chow diet, according to a Purdue statement.

These groups were each split into two smaller groups. One group on each diet was fed a mixture of high-fat chips and the fat-substitute chips, containing olestra, which is a synthetic fat with no calories, while the other group received only regular high-fat chips.

The chips were provided for 28 days. Rats maintained on the high-fat chow diet gained more weight and developed more fatty tissues when they were given fat-substitute chips compared to the animals that ate only regular high-fat chips.

"What's interesting here is that weight gain occurred regardless of when the rats consumed the low-calorie, fat-substituted chips," Swithers said.

"Our findings question the effectiveness of using fat substitutes as part of a long-term weight loss strategy," said study co-author Terry L. Davidson, professor of psychological sciences at Purdue.

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