Potato chips made with phony fat are useful in treating obesity and diabetes, a group of doctors, researchers and patients told a federal advisory panel Tuesday.
But several consumers told the Food and Drug Administration advisory committee that the fake fat chips cause bloating, diarrhea and nausea.
The committee of experts who evaluate food safety for the FDA heard testimony related to a potato chip, sold under the name Wow, made with an artificial fat called olestra. It tastes like normal fat but is not absorbed by the body and, thus, contributes no fat calories to the diet.
The FDA approved olestra in 1996 on the condition that Procter & Gamble, which makes the fat, and Frito-Lay, which manufacturers and sells the chips, report on any adverse health effects. The potato chip packages also are required to carry a label warning of possible gastrointestinal effects from eating the product.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest contends people have suffered from diarrhea, excess gas, bloating and nausea after eating the chips.
Dr. Otis Bowen and Dr. Louis Sullivan, both former Department of Health and Human Services secretaries, found no problems with olestra.
Both Bowen and Sullivan said they had received some financial support from Procter & Gamble.
Several diabetics lauded the potato chips for helping them control weight.
However, at least four witnesses, some supported by CSPI, said the chips had made them ill.