Monday, February 22, 2016

Anti-obesity oil -Is it a new innovation or rehashing of the old Japanese technology?

It is true that obesity is assuming epidemic proportions in countries like USA where almost one third of the population is either overweight or obese. Therefore any suggestion that can help to deal with highly dangerous global situation is worth getting a close attention provided it is logical, scientific and practical. What is tragic is that there is no unanimity about the exact cause of obesity though different experts opine differently defying any consensus. While consumption of saturated fats and trans fats, carbohydrates, white sugar and high fructose corn syrup are all implicated in one way or the other with obesity, the bitter truth is that humans are themselves responsible for this scourge visiting them through reckless dietary system combined with sedentary life style. There is unanimity that putting on body weight is directly linked to an imbalance between calorie intake and calorie expenditure and if the intake is more than what is necessary, even God cannot help in preventing increased body weight!. Though the theory is so simplistic to understand and to be acted upon by the people, the desire to eat good food ( purely from taste angle) over rides the need to keep the body weight constant for an adult. In other words, the will to moderate food consumption according to one's body needs seems to be lacking in case of most consumers resulting in over consumption. One of the curious facts is that healthy foods are invariably less tastier that nutrient light junk foods with lots of calories loaded in them and naturally such foods more or less create a sort of irresistible addiction, repeatedly attracting the hapless consumer!.

Billions of dollars are being made by the so called nutraceutical industry through peddling of hundreds of products claiming the magical properties of shedding body weight though their credentials are suspect. With food safety authorities choosing to look the other way without coming to the help of the citizen through appropriate control measures, the antiobesity products industry has a roaring time with their uncanny marketing strategy to trap vulnerable people like a "spider trapping its prey in its web"! In parallel with this development, another segment of the industry peddles "exercise" machines and crash "weight shedding courses" for the benefit of overweight people minting enormous fortunes. Who can forget the "famous" (or notorious?) Atkins diet or the South Beach diet and similar weight control regime peddling companies who were able to attract millions of people, scared about the ill consequences of high BMI which can cause a plethora of diseases including diabetes, hypertension, CVD, kidney ailments etc, crippling the life style even at an early stage of life. 

Latest to get the spot light is a romatic product going by the captivating name "antiobesity oil"! Though there are some traditional oil based concoctions in the market coming mostly from China and India, the new offering by the above name got a focused attention during the recent scientists conglomeration at Mysooru in the first week of January this year. According the flamboyant innovators, the antiobesity oil they just discovered could "maintain healthy body weight", provides "clean energy"  and "is not stored" as fat in the body. This product is claimed to have been developed for the "first time" in India from sunflower seed oil and it is "one of the kind in the world"! Added to this the antiobesity oil prepared at Mysooru is safety assured unlike similar ones developed elsewhere in the world, so goes the claim. According to the innovators this product is chemically identified as diacylglycerol oil which is supposed to be edible because the only difference between an edible oil as we are used to at present and their new product is that one of the three fatty acid molecules in the triglyceride oil products has been knocked off by controlled lipolysis. If the new product can be commercially made and approved by the food safety authorities in the country it can be a speciality edible oil for use by obese people to reduce their body weight. Of course the food industry needs to be convinced that the technology is "commercially workable" and economically viable. 

Let us look at the claim that such a product has been made for the first time in the world in India. Looking back one cannot forget that in early 2000 a product called "Enova oil" was developed and marketed in Japan claiming that less of this product is stored as visceral fat in the body unlike triglycerides which are the basic chemical entities of all edible oils. This product also boasted of unsaturated fatty acids which are known to reduce undesirable LDLs and raise desirable HDLs in the blood. However this product was abruptly recalled from the market because of several safety and health issues. One of them was the formation of glycidol during deacylation of the oil, an artifact implicated as potentially carcinogenic. Besides the ratio of Omega- 6 to Omega-3 fatty acids was 10:1 in Enova oil whereas most healthy vegetable oils have this ratio 3:1. High percentage of Omega-6 acids is reported to be associated with higher blood pressure and chronic inflammation. Thus the charmed marketing run of Enova oil abruptly ended in September 2009. Though the manufacturers promised to come back with the product soon, till to date there is no sign of this product, leading one to conclude that the technological and health problems were serious enough for the company to abandon it for ever.  

Another interesting fact which did not come to surface when the benefits of diacyl glycerol were glorified by the innovators pertains to its suitability for use as a frying fat. Most Indian preparations expose them to high temperatures between 160C and 210C and many conventional oils do cause frothing and foaming if the free fatty acid content is high in them. Also the mono glycerides of fatty acids are recognized as an excellent emulsifying agent in preparations where stable water in oil emulsions are to be made and in most counties their use in small quantities as emulsifier is approved as safe. According to FAO-WHO Alimentarius Commission daily intake of 12.5 to 25 mg of monoglycerides per kg body weight is considered safe. This works out to about 0.75 to 1.5 gm intake daily through all the foods consumed by an average person weighing 70 kg. Such data on diacyl glycerol are not readily available though it is generally assumed that the lipolytic enzymes present human body may be able to dispose of the product without much harmful effect. Against such a background if the new so called anti obesity oil is really going to be made for Indian consumers, adequate safety studies and tolerance limits will have to worked out before its clearance as a cooking oil..

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