Now we can eat all the fat we want in a meal and still lose weight. Forget that two cheeseburgers, fries and a soda, or fried onions rings/mushrooms and a juicy prime cut of beef with a gooey baked potato smothered in cheese sauce will render your blood as thick as petroleum jelly in a matter of minutes. The magic in this dining extravaganza is the soda, a new variety of cola that contains a fat blocker known as dextrin. But wait, first you have to travel to Japan to get this treat from Pepsi and its affiliate, Suntory, a company that distills booze “to bring happiness into the lives of our customers…in harmony with people and nature.” Yup, makes sense, eh?
Dextrin? This is a group of carbohydrates that can be made by breaking down starch in the presence of water…hydrolysis. Dextrin also appears in the company of heat under acidic conditions, as happens to the crust on a loaf of bread, rendering flavor, color and crunch. Commercially, dextrins are used to make the glue on an envelope flap, the crispness enhancer in breaded frozen foods, and the cement that holds the pyrotechnics together in fireworks and sparklers. Because they are indigestible, dextrins are added to soluble fiber supplements, such as Benefiber. Whether they can help a person lose weight or not is another question; fiber’s claim to fame is increasing satiety and making you feel fuller faster. Fiber doesn’t actually push food through the system more quickly. Instead, it slows transit time through the stomach and small intestine, where digestion takes place. This is why fiber-rich foods keep you feeling full longer. Once fiber gets to the large intestine, it keeps things in motion until they come out. It is true, though, that fiber can absorb some fat, but probably not enough to cause a significant weight loss in a short amount of time.
What About Fat? Eliminating fat from the diet completely is not prudent. We need it to digest, absorb and transport vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are fat-soluble. The body demands the essential fatty acids, the omega-6’s and omega-3’s, to make substances that address inflammation, affect cell signaling, and add fluidity to the cell membrane. Furthermore, fat is an insulator and it provides a place for organs to attach while acting as a cushion, and it helps to keep the skin supple. If there is a problem with fat, it’s that one gram has 9 calories, contrasted to the 4 calories of carbohydrates and proteins. Fat gets broken down by enzymes, pancreatic lipase being the primary one. In the absence of this enzyme, fat molecules remain too large to be absorbed, so are excreted. The objective of the dextrins is to absorb some of this fat and usher it out the back door.
There are substances that do not absorb fats but prevent their breakdown, keeping their molecules too large to be metabolized so that they get eliminated quickly. One of the first of these was Orlistat, a prescription drug named Xenical that prevents the absorption of fat by inhibiting the enzymes that make the fat particles small enough to be metabolized. But the side effects of drugs like this can be embarrassing, especially the urgent explosive diarrhea and gas, among a few other neat ones, like fainting or scratching yourself silly. Alli is an over-the-counter version of Orlistat.
Does Dextrin Work? According to the researchers at Japan’s NIH who studied this stuff, it works. The test animals were fed a high-cholesterol diet containing dextrin and a diglyceride, the latter molecule a fat used in foods to blend certain ingredients together, such as oil and water, which otherwise would not mix. Upon examination of the animals, the group found that serum triglycerides decreased and, strikingly, that the length of intestinal villi increased (Nagata, 2006). Basically, less of the fat was absorbed. You can buy dextrin, either as Benefiber or Nutriose, and make your own soda or other high-fiber beverage (even one from Suntory).
What About The Vitamins? Vitamin A, retinol, helps with night vision, bone growth, tooth development, reproduction, cell division and gene expression. It’s great for the skin and mucous membranes. It’s even recommended to treat acne. Vitamin D is needed to help the body to use calcium and phosphorus in the structure of bones. It supports the immune system and may help to prevent hypertension and common cancers. Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant that protects vitamins A and C, red blood cells and essential fatty acids from destruction via oxidative stress. Vitamin K is naturally produced by gut bacteria, but is also found in foods and as a supplement. It not only helps blood to clot normally, but also escorts calcium to bones where it can’t contribute to arterial plaque. There‘s more, but we don’t have the room for that right now. None of these can be utilized without fat in the diet, so if you choose to use dextrin to absorb fat from a meal, be deliberate, keep things in balance, and supplement.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.