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Observational study questions value of potatoes

Research published in the BMJ suggest issues caused from eating the potato as a potential link to high blood pressure in adults. This observational study will generate debate about the real value of this staple, cheap and widely available foodstuff.

Although known to have nutritional benefits, the potato, a starchy vegetable were considered as a food that should be limited in your dietary intake. More recently, the potato has been included on some government healthy meals programmes.due to their high potassium content, which is associated with lower blood pressure.

The long-term effects of a high potato diet on blood pressure has not previously been studied. US scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical Schools in Massachusetts, investigated links between potato consumption and blood pressure for the first time.

All forms of potato i.e. mashed, boiled, chips, and fried. Data from three large American studies, over more than 20 years and charting diets of 187,453 men and women.

The team controlled for various factors, including weight, smoking status, level of physical activity, and current dietary habits. After these control factors, it was found that eating four or more servings of mashed, baked, or boiled potatoes per week was associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, or hypertension, when compared with less than one serving per week. The effect was not found in men.

Further investigation showed that replacing one serving of potatoes per week with a non-starchy vegetable portion showed a significant drop in blood pressure.

An increased intake of French fries was associated with increased hypertension in men and women. However hose who consumed higher amounts of potato chips did not display an increased risk for hypertension and, in fact, the men who ate more chips showed a reduced hypertension risk.

Can potatoes increase blood pressure?

Potatoes have a higher glycemic index than other vegetables that can trigger a spike in blood sugar just following a meal. Increased sugar in the blood – known as hyperglycemia – has previously been associated with oxidative stress, endothelial dysfunction, and inflammation, all of which could help explain higher risks of hypertension.

Note that this study was observational, so causation can not be proven now. Also self reporting of diet is open to errors as recall is not perfect or completely honest when completing a diet-based questionnaire.

If results are backed by future studies, the researchers believe thiis would “have potentially important public health ramifications” because “they do not support a potential benefit from the inclusion of potatoes as vegetables in government food programs.”

The authors emphasise that whole diet, rather than specific food types is most important. E.g. the glycemic index varies between potato varieties and depend on how it is cooked. All  fried potatoes are not all equal, the time they are cooked, the type of oil used and other factors can make a difference .…more.

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