Eating Potatoes Might Raise Your Blood Pressure

Photo (cc) by iamrenny

Eating too many potatoes might be bad for your blood pressure.

The results of a study published in the medical journal BMJ this week suggest that eating four or more servings of potatoes or french fries per week is associated with an increased risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure.

Specifically, when compared with eating less than one serving per month, researchers found these increased risks associated with eating four or more servings per week of:

  • Baked potatoes –11 percent higher
  • Boiled potatoes — 11 percent higher
  • Mashed potatoes — 11 percent higher
  • French fries — 17 percent higher

Potato chips were not found to be associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure.

The researchers also found that replacing one serving of baked, boiled or mashed potatoes per day with one serving of a non-starchy vegetable was associated with a decreased risk of high blood pressure.

The study was based on data on more than 187,000 men and women who had taken part in three large U.S. studies over a period of more than 20 years. Their diets were assessed with questionnaires and their blood pressure levels were based on professional diagnoses.

The researchers, based in Boston at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, took several other risk factors for high blood pressure into account before coming to the conclusion linking potatoes to an increased risk of high blood pressure.

The authors note that such an observational study has limitations and is not proof of a direct cause-and-effect relationship between potatoes and high blood pressure risk. Instead, it only finds an association between the two.

Still, the authors conclude the study by noting:

These findings have potentially important public health ramifications, as they do not support a potential benefit from the inclusion of potatoes as vegetables in government food programs but instead support a harmful effect that is consistent with adverse effects of high carbohydrate intakes seen in controlled feeding studies.

According to a news release from health care information provider BMJ, potatoes were recently included as vegetables in the federal government’s healthy meals programs due to their high potassium content.

One possible explanation for the connection between potatoes and hypertension, according to the researchers, is that potatoes have a high glycemic index compared to other vegetables. Foods with a higher glycemic index can trigger a steeper rise in blood sugar levels.

You can look up the glycemic index of common foods on Harvard Medical School’s website and learn more about glycemic index in general on the American Diabetes Association’s website.

What’s your take on this news? Will it affect how often you eat potatoes in the future? Share your thoughts below or on Facebook.

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