Time to Stop Dumping on Potatoes

A new systematic review of clinical studies tells us that it’s time to stop dumping on potatoes. Daniel Borch and colleagues systematically reviewed both intervention and observational studies. They concluded:

The identified studies do not provide convincing evidence to suggest an association between intake of potatoes and risks of obesity, T2D, or CVD. French fries may be associated with increased risks of obesity and T2D although confounding may be present.

In plain English, there’s no real proof that eating potatoes increases your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, or cardiovascular disease. French fries aren’t entirely off the hook, though.

From the Harvard School of Public Health, you’ll get a very different view. Their website warns that “potatoes seem to be a particular culprit for weight gain and diabetes.” They say that “the problem with potatoes” lies with their effect on blood sugar and insulin. “A cup of potatoes has a similar effect on blood sugar as a can of Coca Cola or a handful of jelly beans,” they say.

These dire warnings tie back to a large observational study published in 2011. In that study, Harvard researchers found an association between eating more potatoes and gaining weight over time. But at the end of the day, even with this large, observational study, we are left with potential confounding factors that undermine the credibility of those warnings about the lowly spud. Correlation does not prove causation.

Alan Barclay, Chief Scientific Officer for the Glycemic Index Foundation, advises caution about blaming any single food for health woes:

It’s just the same as the one-nutrient-at-a-time blame game. Of course the overall pattern is what counts. French fries are not typically consumed by themselves, but with hamburgers, deep fried chicken, etc…and slurped down with a soft drink (regular or diet). Dry, salty starchy foods alone are hard to swallow.

So, can we please stop dumping on potatoes?

Click here for the study by Borch et al. Click here for more from the Glycemic Index Foundation on potatoes.

Potatoes, photograph by United Soybean Board, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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July 20, 2016

4 Responses to “Time to Stop Dumping on Potatoes”

  1. July 20, 2016 at 10:39 am, Allen Browne said:

    Hmmm? Harvard School of Public Health vs Borch et. al.

    But I like Mr Barclay’s comment “the overall pattern is what counts”.

  2. July 20, 2016 at 11:57 am, ejh said:

    I thought there also was a new “hulabaloo” about potatoes cooked and cooled down turning into resistant starch — yes or no? Maybe maybe not?

  3. July 22, 2016 at 9:43 am, Allen Browne said:

    “Resistant starch” – a new thing to learn about today – another good day. Thanks, Ted.