A new study suggests that potato consumption could be harmful for blood pressure. The study found consuming more than four servings of potatoes a week was linked to higher blood pressure. Specifically, baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes raised the risk of blood pressure by 11 percent, and 17 percent for fried potatoes. On the other hand, potato chips were not found to impact the hypertension risk.
Lead researcher Dr. Lea Borgi said, “We hope that our study continues the conversation about potatoes and the risk of hypertension and other diseases.”
Some expert dieticians who have commented on the study do not necessarily put blame on potatoes per se, but rather all the extras that people like to eat their potatoes with.
For the study, the researchers followed over 187,000 men and women for over 20 years. During this period, participants were surveyed about their diets. None of the participants had high blood pressure at the start of the study.
Potatoes are considered to have a high glycemic index, meaning they can cause spikes in blood sugar, which may help understand how potatoes contribute to high blood pressure.
It is only an association that is seen between potatoes and blood pressure, and Dr. Borgi and the team cannot suggest that potatoes cause hypertension.
Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center, commented, “The poor potato’s reputation gets dinged again with this study. Americans ate, on average, close to 50 pounds of potatoes per person in 2013, the bulk of which came from French fries. As a dietitian, I am not sure I can even classify commercial French fries as potatoes. They have been transformed into sticks of grease, salt, trans fats, and who knows what else?”
Potatoes shouldn’t be shunned completely. They do offer health benefits and nutrients, including vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
Heller added, “You can make mashed potatoes with olive oil, non-fat milk, or soy milk, and add mixed herbs and spices. I do not peel the potatoes and I mix in vegetables, such as sauteed spinach and garlic. But watch portions, for example, today’s russet potatoes can be the size of a city bus. Alternate potatoes with other whole grain starches, like brown rice or pasta. And remember, only about a quarter of your plate should be taken up with starchy foods.”
Also, read Bel Marra Health’s article on 5 fixes can help you control your blood pressure.