People who eat fried potatoes two or more times a week are twice as likely to experience an early death than those who do not, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Scientists have long known that fried foods can cause health complications, but this link has never been found for potatoes before. Not only did the team find a connection, they also discovered eating potatoes that have not been fried comes with no early mortality risk. That suggests there is something specifically harmful about the frying process.
In 2014, Americans consumed 112.1 pounds of potatoes per person. Of those, 33.5 pounds were fresh potatoes. The other 78.5 pounds were processed, and most were French fries.
In the study, a team of researchers from Italy followed 4,440 people aged 45 to 79 over a period of eight years to look at osteoarthritis. However, during their research, they shifted their focus to fried potato consumption instead.
To do this, researchers divided the participants into subgroups based on how many potatoes they ate each week and then recorded their health progression. During the study, 236 participants died. Scientists found that those who ate fried potatoes — including French fries, potato chips, and hash browns — two to three times a week doubled their chance of dying compared to those who did not.
While these results were not influenced by age or sex, the data revealed that men were more likely than women, and young people were more likely than older people, to eat fried food.
The study is purely observational, in which scientists tracked only the connection between eating fried potatoes and early death. As a result, it cannot definitely state that eating fried potatoes directly causes early death. Even so, researchers believe there is merit to the connection found in the research.
“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 lead author Nicola Veronese, a scientist at the National Research Council in Padova, Italy, according to CNN.
Many health factors affect early mortality rates, including obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and high quantities of salt. As a result, more research needs to be done on this topic to see how all the different factors connect.
In addition, scientists believe that the new research should not discourage people from eating potatoes. While there are concerns about fried food, potatoes can be quite healthy when prepared in other ways. They have a lot of nutrients and can be a good source of vitamin C.
“Potatoes are inherently a very healthy vegetable,” explained National Potato Council CEO John Keeling, who was not involved in the research, according to Metro UK. “How the potato is prepared will impact the calorie, fat and sodium content.”