Could eating this popular food shorten your life?

Could eating this popular food shorten your life?

You might love french fries, but they don’t love you. In fact, eating them might shorten your life.

Researchers analyzing the dietary patterns of 4,400 people took a closer look at how often they ate potatoes. Notably they found that 236 of the 4,400 participants died over the course of the eight-year study. At the end of the study, it was determined that those who ate fried potatoes were at increased risk of mortality compared with participants who ate no fried potatoes.

“Those eating fried potatoes two to three times each week almost doubled their risk (of dying),” says Nicola Veronese, the study’s lead author and a scientist at the National Research Council in Padova, Italy, in an email to Advocate’s health enews.

Frying seemed to be the key factor, because unfried potatoes didn’t show the same connection. The researchers took all cooking preparations into account, so french fries, potato chips, hash browns and other fried potatoes all were included under the “fried” umbrella. Cooking oil that is rich in trans-fat may be the culprit.

“Trans-fat or saturated fats increase the bad (LDL) cholesterol level and lower the good (HDL) cholesterol,” says Dr. Hetal Gandhi, a cardiologist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. “Eating foods high in trans-fat can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.”

The American Heart Association recommends avoiding trans fats and limiting the use of saturated fat to five to six percent of total calories. The association suggests preparing foods in oils that don’t contain trans fats, such as naturally occurring, unhydrogenated vegetable oils, which include: canola, safflower, sunflower and olive oil.

Dr. Gandhi says people should consider eating fewer fried foods and more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and nuts.

“This can help lower cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease,” he says.

The potato analysis, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was part of a broader study of osteoarthritis funded by the National Institutes of Health.


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  1. “Those eating fried potatoes two to three times each week almost doubled their risk (of dying)”

    Which, translated, means that if your chances of dying are around 0.01, eating fried potatoes doubles that to around 0.02. Let’s have some perspective here, please.

  2. So if trans-fat may be culprit, if I fry my potatoes in olive oil (and I do) are they as safe as baked or boiled potatoes are? (Before the butter, that is.)

    When a meal cries out for finger-food potatoes, I cut a baked potato into long wedges, sprinkle on onion and garlic powder and paprika, and put it under the broiler for a few minutes. No oil.

  3. My dad is 101 years old and has always had fried potatoes, at least 4 time a week. Either hash browns, or french fries. They were always fried in butter. On the other side of my family, pretty much the same thing, and all of my aunts, uncles and grandparents lived into their 80’s and 90’s. None of them were overweight and they were all physically active.

  4. If you’re going to pull hypothetical numbers like .01, sure doubling is miniscule. But using this as a point isn’t relevant because you don’t know the true numbers and neither does the study. Nonetheless, the outcome of studies like this is mainly to confirm that everything should be in moderation. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.

    Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, wasn’t so alarmed by the study’s results.
    “First, this is an association,” Nestle emailed. “Fried potatoes are associated with somewhat higher mortality, but this does not mean that they cause death. People who eat a lot of fried potatoes might have other unhealthy lifestyle practices – they might have worse diets in general, not exercise, smoke more or drink more.”
    “Second,” Nestle added, “the association is not strictly dose-related. At lower levels of intake, the association is not statistically significant. The most significant associations are at the highest levels of intake of fried potatoes – three times a week or more. The moral here is moderation. If you love french fries, make them a once-in-a-while treat.”

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About the Author

Kathleen Troher
Kathleen Troher

Kathleen Troher, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Good Sheperd Hospital in Barrington. She has more than 20 years of journalism experience, with her primary focus in the newspaper and magazine industry. Kathleen graduated from Columbia College in Chicago, earning her degree in journalism with an emphasis on science writing and broadcasting. She loves to travel with her husband, Ross. They share their home with a sweet Samoyed named Maggie.