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July 22/29, 1998

Gastrointestinal Symptoms Following Olestra Consumption—Reply

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinkerMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthor


Copyright 1998 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.1998

JAMA. 1998;280(4):325-327. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-280-4-jbk0722

In Reply.—Our purpose was to assess people consuming potato chips in typical fashion, not to replicate previous work showing an increase in mild to moderate GI symptoms when people were fed olestra at every meal for months. The average theater study participant consumed more than a typical serving, and 842 (64%) of the 1316 people calling 800 telephone numbers with anecdotal reports of adverse GI effects (unpublished data, 1998, Procter & Gamble).

Thus, our randomized study could evaluate GI effects and whether the anecdotal associations previously reported were causal or likely simply misattributions. As no difference in GI symptoms was found, the explanation for anecdotal reporting is most likely that background GI symptoms are extremely common and are amplified by media coverage attributing GI symptoms to olestra. This conclusion is corroborated by a double-blind rechallenge study, which found that people who called 800 telephone numbers, believing they had experienced an adverse olestra GI effect, were no more likely to report symptoms after a double serving of olestra chips than after the same quantity of regular chips.2

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