Eating Fried Potatoes May Lead To Risk Of Early Death, Study Shows
Heart-healthy food is not exactly what comes to mind when someone mentions an order of French fries. The fact that French fries are not healthy for us is not news.
It has long been established that regularly including French fries in your diet can add inches to your waist and can increase your cholesterol to unhealthy levels.
While it may be easy for some to turn a blind eye to the few extra pounds, or the cautionary advice from doctors to lower cholesterol, it is harder to ignore the findings of a new clinical study conducted by scientist Dr. Nicola Veronese.
The study was conducted on over 4400 participants, and states that individuals that frequently eat fried potatoes (two or more times per week) are twice as likely to die prematurely than individuals who do not regularly include them in their diets.
This is a staggering statistic that has been raising a few cautionary eyebrows. What is it about this particular fried food that makes it so very dangerous to our health?
Potatoes in the "un-fried" form have not been linked to higher mortality rates, and while other fried foods are surely not good for our health, none have been found to increase the likelihood of death as dramatically as French fries have shown to do.
Scientists have accredited their findings to two main factors, trans fat and a chemical known as acrylamide that is present in most fast fried French fry foods.
Trans Fat In French Fries
As previously mentioned, potatoes show no real evidence at all of actually being an unhealthy food, in and of themselves. Actually it’s the opposite — potatoes are a very healthy food.
Potatoes are a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and the essential minerals manganese and phosphorus, among others.
However, when potatoes are fried in any form, such as to create French fries, potato chips, or hash browns, they have significantly more calories and trans fatty acids than raw, baked, or boiled potatoes do.
On average, a medium-sized order of French fries contains 17 grams of fat, 380 calories, and 45 grams of carbohydrates.
The trans fatty acids, which make up the major portion of fats in fried potatoes, are the bad fats that can increase cholesterol to unhealthy levels. This can lead to heart disease and other dangerous health conditions. Heart disease, in all first world nations, is a leading cause of death among middle-aged and older adults.
How The Study Was Conducted
In the recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researcher Dr. Nicola Veronese studied individuals between the ages of 45 to 79.
He divided the study participants into groups based on how frequently they ate fried potatoes and then monitored their death rate. In his findings, he reported that out of 4,440 individuals, 236 died over an eight-year period.
There was no correlation to age or gender, but there was a correlation to the subgroups in which they were divided. Death rates were higher in the groups of individuals who reportedly ate fried potatoes frequently.
This was an observational study, meaning that no manipulation of the participants’ diets or lifestyles was altered. Veronese simply correlated the rate of death to the frequency of eating fried potatoes.
Because trans fats and cholesterol levels in participants were not measured, this should be considered a preliminary study which needs more investigation before hard-lined conclusions can be drawn. Nevertheless, the findings are tremendous.
Researchers feel that it may be a combination of factors, including overall diet and activity level, that have lead them to their findings. But two factors seemed to come up repeatedly: trans fat content and acrylamide.
What Exactly Is Acrylamide?
While the above findings may seem somewhat ambiguous, there is one factor that makes fried starchy foods unique — the production of the chemical Acrylamide.
Acrylamide is a chemical that is produced when potatoes and other starchy foods are cooked at high levels of heat. Stephanie Schiff, a registered dietitian, who was not involved in the study whatsoever, explains that this chemical has significance.
Acrylamide has been studied in lab animals. In these studies, the chemicals led to increased levels of cancer. As a result, acrylamide has been classified as toxic to humans. Schiff recommends several practical pieces of sound advice to lessen levels of acrylamide production when cooking starchy foods, and thus, the risk.
• If possible avoid deep fried potatoes and fried starchy foods all together.
• If you must fry a starchy food, do it as quickly as possible and then finish.
• Avoid eating the browned part of fried starches whenever possible, as they contain higher levels of acrylamide than the regularly fried parts of the potato.
• Baking or grilling starches at very high temperatures can also cause acrylamide production, so try to boil or steam starchy foods when you cook or prepare them.
• Avoid storing potatoes in the refrigerator, as this leads to higher levels of acrylamide production once they are actually cooked and being stored away.
The Scientific Consensus Says...
Although this research is preliminary, almost all doctors and dietary professionals are in agreement that overall, fried potato consumption should be greatly limited.
In America, the consumption of potatoes is ingrained into our diets and lifestyles.
According to the National Potato Council, the average American eats over 112 pounds of potatoes each year. Of those potatoes, a whopping 79 pounds are fried or processed as a fried chip product.
Doctors and health professionals warn that this statistic needs to be reversed. The frying of starchy foods is proving to be detrimental to our health and they strongly urge individuals to explore other methods of cooking potatoes aside from frying.
Some delicious and nutritious potato dishes that are health-approved include:
• Mashed potatoes with a small amount of butter or cream
• Classic potato salad, with fat free Greek yogurt replacing the mayonnaise
• Baked scalloped potatoes with a light amount of cheese, or no cheese
• Garlic-seasoned red new potatoes, or roasted small potatoes without butter
• A baked potato topped with a small amount of cheese of fat free Greek yogurt
The Bottom Line
Based on these findings, it is certainly reasonable to assume that fried potato foods are much more dangerous for you to consume than previously believed.
If you find that you are in the class of individuals eating fried potatoes several times a week, it is probably a good idea to cut back your intake as soon as possible.
Begin by reducing your consumption and replacing them with another healthier alternative such as air-popped popcorn or lightly salted almonds. Eventually your cravings for this savory, but dangerous food will abate, and you may find yourself
in much better overall heath. And, according to this study, add years to your life!