Potatoes aren’t always bad for you—it’s all in the making, a new study shows
A new study shares some sympathy for a much maligned vegetable: potatoes.
It found that the way a potato is prepared – including what people add to it – is what it is associated with Type 2 diabetesand not just “humble” vegetables.
The study was published in Diabetes Care, the American Diabetes Association’s peer-reviewed journal for healthcare providers.
Previous research has shown an association between diabetes and total potato intake.
A team of Australian researchers, led by Dr Nicola Bondonno from Edith Cowan University’s Institute for Nutrition Research and Health Innovation, investigated the relationship between vegetable intake and the incidence of type 2 diabetes.
The researchers also examined the relationship between potato consumption and the incidence of type 2 diabetes.
Over 54,000 participants, aged 50 to 64, were recruited from the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health cohort, which examined the relationship between dietary components and incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases.
Participants completed a 192-item “food frequency questionnaire” at the beginning of the study.
Those who took part recorded how often they had eaten certain foods in the past 12 months, said co-author Pratik Pokharel, a doctoral candidate who worked on the analysis for the paper.
“Food and nutrient intake was then estimated using standard recipes and FoodCalc software,” Pokharel told Fox News Digital.
Eating more vegetables can lead to a lower risk of diabetes
The researchers found that those with the highest total vegetable intake had a 21% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes—compared to the group with the lowest vegetable intake, after adjusting for lifestyle and demographic confounders.
They also found that participants with the highest consumption of potatoes had a 9% higher risk of type 2 diabetes, compared to the group that ate the lowest daily amount.
Boiled potatoes are key
“When we separated boiled potatoes from mashed potatoes, fries, or chips, boiled potatoes were no longer associated with a higher risk of diabetes. It had a null effect,” Pokharel said in a press release.
The study found that those who ate the most potatoes also consumed more butter, red meat and soft drinks, which are known to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
“When you take that into account, boiled potatoes are no longer associated with diabetes,” Pokharel added in a statement.
“Just french fries and mashed potatoes, probably because of the latter [they’re] usually made with butter, cream and the like.”
Most people don’t eat enough vegetables
About 90% of adults do not meet recommendations for fruits and vegetablesaccording to the latest United States Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines.
The guidelines recommend that most adults consume two “cup equivalents” of fruit and two and a half “cup equivalents” of vegetables per day.
Experts suggest aiming for four half-cup servings of fruit and five half-cup servings of vegetables each day to put these recommendations into practice.
The American Heart Association suggests that fruits and vegetables should fill half of the plate at each meal to meet these goals.
“One cup of raw leafy greens or a baked potato should be about the size of a baseball or an average-sized fist,” the association added on its website.
We need to diversify our diet
Pokharel recommends eating a variety of foods.
“It’s good to replace white rice and pasta with boiled potatoes, because potatoes have fiber, vitamin C and other nutrients – and potatoes are vegetables after all,” he said.
“We get other nutrients from potatoes that we don’t find in white rice or pasta,” he also said.
Refined grains are low in certain nutrients, such as fiber, and can lead to nutritional deficiencies, he said.
Be aware of the limitations of the study
The study had some limitations, including that the participants self-reported their diet and that the researchers only measured their diet at one point in time.
Pokharel said repeated measurements of dietary intake would provide a more accurate estimate of a complete diet.
He also said the study was only a prospective study — so it couldn’t establish a causal link between vegetable intake and diabetes, such as noting that eating fewer vegetables actually causes diabetes.
Don’t blame specific foods — understand the context
“People rarely eat food in isolation,” Pokharel said.
“We should look at the bigger picture as we assess the relationship between dietary intake and disease incidence,” he added.
“The key is to look at the underlying dietary pattern and method of food processing to see what other culprits are, rather than blaming one food,” he also said.