Should You Eat Olestra?

Should you eat potato chips made with olestra, the new fat substitute with zero fat and calories? Here’s my bottom-line advice: only in small quantities, only once in a while, and only if you really, really want to.

True, snacks made with olestra (brand name Olean) are much lower in fat and calories than regular snacks — a definite plus. And they taste just like regular chips — another plus.

What worries me: Olestra siphons off carotenoids — substances we eat in vegetables and fruit — that work to keep us disease-free. Examples: Lycopene, a carotenoid in tomatoes and red grapefruit, is linked to less prostate cancer and heart disease. Lutein, a carotenoid in broccoli, is linked to fewer cataracts.

What you lose: Inside you, olestra hooks onto carotenoids such as these in your digestive tract and escorts some of them out of your body — unabsorbed. Even if you eat olestra chips at different times of day than fruits and vegetables, your uptake of carotenoids could be reduced by as much as 10%.

We need more carotenoids, not less! Until we know more about olestra, it makes sense to go easy with it. Next time you have a snack attack for chips, consider all your options.

How the Chips Stack Up — A 1-oz Serving:

Lay’s Wow! Fat Free Potato Chips (with Olean) (15 chips) — 0 g. Fat; 75 Cal
Baked Lay’s Potato Crisps (11 chips) — 1.5 g. Fat; 110 Cal
Lay’s Classic Potato Chips (20 chips) — 10 g. Fat; 150 Cal

What you have in your mind?