Spud surprise: Eating potatoes won’t increase diabetes or hypertension risk, study claims

BOSTON — Potatoes often get a bad rap because they are high in carbs. However, one study claims that potatoes may not be as unhealthy as once thought. Despite concerns that potatoes could increase the risk of cardiometabolic diseases, researchers from Boston University found no evidence to support this claim. In fact, they found potatoes, both fried and non-fried, did not increase the risk of conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and hypertension in healthy adults.

“In this study, we looked at the effects of higher intakes of potatoes on blood pressure, lipids, and glucose and we found that after accounting for other dietary and lifestyle factors, there was no increased risk of cardiometabolic disorders associated with potato consumption,” says lead study investigator Lynn Moore in a media release. “In fact, we found that those in the highest potato intake category consumed 25% more total fruits and vegetables than those in the lower potato intake group. As a result, these participants who consumed more potatoes were more likely to meet the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines.”

The study observed a large population of healthy White adults and found no association between consuming four or more cups of potatoes per week and cardiometabolic diseases. Furthermore, fried potato consumption appeared to have little impact when eaters combined them with other healthy diet and lifestyle factors. For example, those who ate more fried potato items but ate less red meat had a lower risk of elevated triglycerides, while physically active adults who consumed more fried potatoes had a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

French fries and ketchup
French fries and ketchup (Photo by Pixzolo Photography on Unsplash)

The researchers emphasized the importance of overall diet and lifestyle in determining cardiometabolic disease risk. Public health messages that single out potatoes, even fried ones, may not be supported by this evidence. Potatoes are rich in potassium, magnesium, and dietary fiber, which can be protective against heart attacks and strokes associated with elevated cardiometabolic risk. However, further research is necessary, including randomized controlled trials, to investigate the effects of potatoes cooked in different ways on cardiometabolic disease risk.

This study challenges the notion that potatoes should be limited and provides evidence to support their inclusion in a balanced and healthy eating pattern. As with any food, moderation and overall diet quality are key.

“Previously published evidence on potato consumption has been conflicting. For example, some find higher potato intakes to be positively associated with elevated blood pressure while others find the opposite. In observational studies, it is important to try to separate out a food like potatoes from other dietary components. If the individuals consuming more potatoes, for example, also consume more refined grains or have other unhealthy lifestyle habits, then the adverse effect of potatoes may actually be a result of other things associated with diet and lifestyle,” Moore concludes.

The study is published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and was supported by the Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE).

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