A recent Harvard study has shown that high consumption of potatoes – as few as four servings a week – might expose you to risks of higher blood pressure. Eating a single serving of spuds per month could, the study says, significantly lower your high blood pressure risk.
And it not just the consumption of potatoes that counts: It’s how they are prepared. Baked, boiled and mashed potatoes are the ‘least risky’, exposing you to ‘only’ an 11% greater risk of high blood pressure, but eating spuds that have been fried raises your HBP risk 17%. Oddly, potato chips, which usually are either fried or baked, don’t seem to affect your blood pressure, even though the extra fat they contain does present other health issues.
The study was led by Dr. Lea Borgi, of the renal division at Boston’s Brigham and Woman’s Hospital. She and her colleagues tracked the potato consumption of more than 187,000 men and women who had participated in three studies over a period of 20 years. During each of those studies, participants tracked their consumption of various foods on questionnaires. When the studies began, none of the participants were found to have high blood pressure – but some could, of course, have developed it for other reasons during the time they were diet-monitoring.
At least one dietitian not involved with the new study – Samantha Heller, a senior clinician at New York City’s New York Medical Center – has said potatoes may be less to blame than are the assorted things people heap on potatoes. Things such as butter (which is high in fat), or catsup (high in sugar), and, among other things, bacon bits (high it sodium as well as fat).
A far healthier alternative topping than most, my favorite, is a sprinkle of olive oil topped by however much cumin you’re comfortable with. Cumin is said to aid in digestion, improve immunity and treat piles,insomnia, respiratory disorders, asthma, bronchitis, common cold, lactation, anemia, skin disorders, boils and cancer, according to the website organicfacts.com.
HealthDay quoted Dr. Borgi as saying potatoes have a higher glycemic index, which measures how carbohydrates raise blood sugar, than most other vegetables, and a high glycemic index could help explain her study’s findings.
Borgi pointed out that this study didn’t prove potatoes cause high blood pressure, only that they seem to be associated with an increased risk. Nevertheless, she and her team suggested that replacing one serving a day of potatoes with a non-starchy vegetable might lower the risk of high blood pressure.
Because of their high potassium content, potatoes have recently been included as vegetables in the U.S. government’s healthy meals program, the researchers noted.
But the inclusion of potatoes in the U.S. government’s healthy meals program doesn’t mean that, despite warnings from nephrologists and dieticians working with kidney patients suggest the latter should be able to consume potatoes like individuals without troubled or diseased kidneys.
The potassium they contain can pose a risk for kidney disease sufferers, because they need to carefully control their potassium levels, and eating potatoes – unless they have been soaked for some time in water that will leach out that mineral – is something they should avoid doing, more than a tiny bit, anyway.
Potatoes have been a staple in human diets for centuries, long before high blood pressure was the problem it is today.
Heller noted that, “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,” she said.
Borgi added, “Our findings have potentially important public health ramifications, as they don’t support the health benefits of including potatoes in government food programs.”