Health warning over fat substitute gth olestraghy

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The Independent Online
A FAT substitute, said to hold the key to solving obesity in the United States, should not be available in Britain until it is tested further, researchers said today.

Sucrose polyester (SPE) fat substitutes are already being sold in crisps in the US, but researchers in the gastroenterology department at Cambridge's Addenbrooke's Hospital warned they could have dangerous side-effects.

One of the main products to come under scrutiny is olestra, a fat-like substance that is tasteless, odourless and non-absorbable, and that passes undigested through the intestines, making foods less fattening.

But the Addenbrooke's study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, says its side-effects include stripping the body of important vitamins and nutrients, causing bowel upsets.

The six-month study of 76 adults found that people who ate SPE had lower levels of vitamin E and carotenoids - the colour nutrients in many natural foods, thought by experts to reduce the risk of heat disease and cancer - and a third suffered from bowel upsets.

One researcher said: "This study has demonstrated important deleterious effects of SPE which need to be carefully examined before this product is made available for widespread long-term consumption.

"We were surprised to find it upset bowels and that when we measured carotenoids they were low. You can't laugh that off."

Foods containing SPE have already come under fire in the US where the Centre for Science in the Public Interest is leading the campaign to have them banned.