by Marion Nestle
Jul 5 2017

Thinking about: potatoes!

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has a new study with a startling conclusion: “frequent consumption of fried potatoes appears to be associated with an increased mortality risk” (here’s a news report about it).

For lovers of French fries, this is unhappy news.  Or is it?

The study looked at potato intake (fried and unfried) reported by 4440 participants aged 45–79 y at baseline for 8 years, as part of a study on osteoarthritis.  Participants with the highest consumption of potatoes had the same mortality as those consuming the lowest amount.

But when they looked at the subgroup consuming fried potatoes 2–3 times per week, the risk of mortality doubled.

It’s not potatoes that might be a problem; it’s just those that are fried.  Even so,

  • The study is based on intake reported in food frequency questionnaires
  • The results are not cleanly dose-related; mortality rates were higher among people reporting fried potatoes twice a week than those reporting more
  • People who eat lots of fried potatoes are likely to indulge in other unhealthful dietary or lifestyle practices.

But this is not the first study to report health problems among frequent eaters of fried potatoes.  See:

This is a lot to blame on one food.  I vote for lifestyle confounding.

Put French fries in your once-in-awhile category.  I’m saving my allotment for the Belgian ones.

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