You might want to put off eating those fries you’ve been craving for iftar.
A recent study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who eat fried potatoes two or more times a week double their risk of early death in comparison to those who don’t.
Lead author Dr Nicola Veronese and colleagues tracked 4,440 people aged 45 to 79 over eight years studying osteoarthritis. But they decided to momentarily set that aside and focus on participants’ consumption of fried potatoes.
The study divided participants into subgroups depending on their weekly consumption of potatoes. Over the span of eight years, 236 of the 4,440 participants died. Results showed that those who ate fried potatoes two or three times a week had doubled their chances of dying early compared to those who didn’t consume them.
“Fried potatoes consumption is increasing worldwide,” Veronese said.
Fried potatoes consist of everything ranging from french fries, to potato chips to hash browns or anything cooked in a fryer, according to Veronese.
While the age or gender of the participants had no influence on the result, the study showed that men and younger participants were more likely to enjoy such fried foods.
However, since this is an observational study it cannot be inferred that eating fried potatoes is the direct cause of early death.
At the same time Veronese said, “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.” He said that trans fat has been known to increase ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood or LDL which may result in cardiovascular diseases.
Factors such as obesity and consumption of high quantities of salt may also play a role in increasing risk of early death.
‘Not a representative sample’
Americans consumed 112.1 pounds of potatoes per person in 2014 of which 33.5 were fresh potatoes while 78.5 pounds were processed, according to the National Potato Council.
The council’s CEO John Keeling said the “study isn’t relevant to the general population” since data was originally collected for an osteoarthritis study and included participants with arthritis only.
In an email he wrote that a potato is “inherently a very healthy vegetable.” He said that an average potato consists of a 110 calories, zero fat, no sodium, no cholesterol and provides a third of the vitamin C required a day.
“How the potato is prepared will impact the calorie, fat and sodium content,” he said, but the basic nutrients still remain.
On the other hand, Susanna Larsson, an associate professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, suggested that other factors may be responsible for the early death. “Fried potato consumption may be an indicator of a less healthy (Western) dietary pattern which is associated with increased mortality,” said Larsson.
A study she had conducted had not found any risk of increased cardiovascular disease related to potato consumption.
Stephanie Schiff, a registered dietitian at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital in Huntington, New York said that the danger while eating fried foods came from a chemical called ‘acrylamide.’
Stephanie explained that acrylamide is “a chemical produced when starchy foods such as potatoes are fried, roasted or baked at a high temperature.” She stated that the browning process during frying is one that causes cancer in animals and is considered toxic for humans, suggesting that acrylamide is also a possible cause of cancer.
In order to avoid acrylamide she suggested to fry the food quickly before it goes brown and avoid storing them in refrigerators, since that could lead to increased production of acrylamide when the potatoes are cooked.
Meanwhile, Veronese said he hoped that his study would inform everyone that consuming fried potatoes “could be an important risk factor for mortality. Thus, their consumption should be strongly limited.”