Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Olestra Bad For You?

Also Known As: Olean



Short answer

Olestra is still permitted by the FDA, but it’s liable to give you gas, bloating, or even diarrhea. It can also confuse your body into putting on weight.



Long answer

Olestra is a fat substitute without fat or calories. Although it enjoyed brief popularity in the nineties, it can cause gastrointestinal distress and may actually make you fat.

Olestra is made up of molecules that are structurally similar to fat. They're larger, however -- too large to be absorbed by the body. Olestra was designed to give you the taste and sensation of consuming something with real fat and then to pass directly out your other end.

Unfortunately, Olestra causes serious side effects in your digestive system. If you consume a product with Olestra, you may cramp up, you may get gassy or bloated, and you might even get diarrhea. Complaints about these unpleasant side effects led to Frito-Lay pulling their line of fat-free Wow! chips - the complaints were so prevalent that sales of the chips (and Frito-Lay's stock price) plummeted. Let's just say, if you consume a product with Olestra, you might be spending some time in the bathroom.

Olestra soaks up quite a bit when it passes through your body. That can include vitamins and other nutrients that your body needs. When you eat Olestra, there's a chance that it'll do more than pass out in your stool - it may take many of the good nutrients from your food as well. The upside of this is that Olestra may soak up the good with the bad. There's some evidence that it can soak up dioxins and other chemicals that can cause long-term harm and chronic health problems.

There's also evidence that Olestra confuses the body. It satiates your stomach, which begins the biochemical process for breaking down fats. Olestra, however, can't be broken down, so it continues through your digestive system without being absorbed. Eat enough Olestra, and your body will become confused when you eat fats that can be broken down - it'll transfer them into storage rather than converting them into energy. In this way, fat-free Olestra can paradoxically increase your body weight.

For now, the FDA allows Olestra on the market. This is over the objections of organizations like the Center For Science In The Public Interest, who have implored the FDA to reconsider their stance in light of the gastrointestinal problems that Olestra causes. Because the product became popular in the nineties, it may be decades yet before we understand the long-term effects of a diet that is rich in Olestra - if it does cause chronic health conditions, we don’t yet know about them.

Possible short-term side effects

  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • gas
  • stomach cramps

Possible long-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • interference with vitamin absorption


  • no fat
  • no calories
  • no cholesterol
  • absorption of dioxins

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Sean McNulty
Published on: 10-10-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Sean McNulty
Published on: 10-10-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Random Page

Check These Out!