Bad news for people who love fried potatoes, the popular side dish is being linked by scientists to early death. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who eat fried potatoes at least two times per week are twice likely to suffer from early death compared to those who do not eat fried potatoes.
Apart from ingesting trans fats that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, fried potatoes contain acrylamide, a chemical that's linked to cancer in lab animals. This chemical is also considered as toxic to humans.
People who eat fried potatoes two or more times per week have double the risk of an early death compared to those who avoid them, a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found. Eating potatoes that have not been fried was not linked to a similar early mortality risk, the researchers noted.
Dr. Nicola Veronese, the lead author of the study and a scientist at the National Research Council in Padova, Italy, warned that the consumption of fried potatoes is increasing worldwide.
In 2014 alone, Americans consumed 112.1 pounds of potatoes per person, according to the National Potato Council. Of that total, 33.5 pounds were fresh potatoes, the remaining 78.5 pounds were processed. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the majority of processed potatoes Americans eat are French fries.
4,440 people aged 45 to 79 were tracked by Veronese and his colleagues over a period of eight years to study osteoarthritis. The research team decided to momentarily set aside the main issue of osteoarthritis and look at participants; consumption of potatoes.
Even though most of us would assume that fried potatoes could be unhealthy for us, there is very limited scientific data on the issue.
The researchers divided study participants into subgroups based on how frequently they ate potatoes each week. Over the eight years, a total of 236 of the participants died. Veronese analyzed the data for each group and found that those who ate fried potatoes two to three times each week doubled their chance of dying early compared to those who ate no fried potatoes.
Age or sex of participants did not influence the result, but the data showed men were more likely than women and younger participants were more likely than older participants to enjoy the fried food.
The study is observational, this means the researchers simply tracked the behavior of a group of people and found an association between one behavior — eating fried potatoes — and another factor — early death.
Since it’s an observational study, Veronese and his co-authors note it cannot be said that eating fried potatoes directly causes an early mortality — it would require more research to draw such a firm conclusion.
“Even if it is an observational study, we believe that the cooking oil, rich in trans-fat, is an important factor in explaining mortality in those eating more potatoes,” said Veronese. Trans fat has been shown to raise the “bad,” or LDL, cholesterol in the blood, which can lead to cardiovascular disease.Yet, other important factors, including obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and use of high quantities of salt might also play a role in the early death of those eating two or more portions of fried potatoes each week.
Yet, other important factors, including obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and use of high quantities of salt might also play a role in the early death of those eating two or more portions of fried potatoes each week.
National Potato Council CEO John Keeling believes that the study isn’t relevant to the general population since the data was collected for an osteoarthritis study and includes only patients with arthritis.
Susanna Larsson, an associate professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, noted that the new study provides “no evidence” that potato consumption is in and of itself a health risk.
“Fried potato consumption may be an indicator of a less healthy (Western) dietary pattern which is associated with increased mortality,” said Larsson, who also conducted a study of potato consumption. Her study did not find an increased risk of cardiovascular disease linked to eating potatoes.
Image courtesy of: Daniel Y. Go