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February 2005 Issue

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Olestra Could Be Antidote to Toxins

Published February 2005

Researchers at UC and the University of Western Australia have discovered that an antidote to dioxin poisoning may be as close as the grocery store.

In a study published by the American Physiological Society, and another to appear in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, the scientists found that an ingredient in Procter & Gamble's Fat Free Pringles can remove many compounds in a class of 12 banned toxins, including cancer-causing dioxin, from the body.

The ingredient is olestra (Olean), a nonabsorbable fat product that P&G developed in collaboration with UC and introduced in 1996 in some of its snacks.

According to principal investigator Ronald Jandacek, PhD, of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, the researchers were able to reduce the amount of toxins in lab mice if the mice lost weight.

When the researchers added olestra to the animals' diets, they not only lost weight--they excreted 30 times more dioxin than animals that didn't get olestra.

A study of an Australian man, poisoned with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) while working on electrical transformers, appears equally promising.

A diet including just two servings of olestra products a day over two years dramatically reduced PCB levels in the patient's tissue. A regular-size can of Pringles contains six servings.

"It was a remarkable recovery," says Dr. Jandacek

The findings suggest olestra could help people like the newly elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who became ill after being poisoned with dioxin.

Olestra's application could be broader, however. Dioxins, used in Vietnam in the controversial jungle defoliant Agent Orange and banned by U.S. EPA since 1979, remain prevalent in the environment and are beginning to appear in human body fat.

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