Study Finds, Eating More Potatoes and (Baked) French Fries Helps Control Blood Pressure

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Potatoes tend to be a dieting no-no for people laying off of starchy foods and carbohydrates. In that same light, French fries often fall into the “junk food” category as eaters cover them in ketchup and salt. Now, a new study finds this popular vegetable may be getting a bum rap. Researchers from Purdue University say eating more potatoes can actually help keep blood pressure under control better than taking certain supplements.

The key to the potato’s nutritional goodness comes from potassium. Study authors explain that increasing dietary potassium from foods like baked and boiled potatoes helps to reduce sodium retention in eaters consuming a typical American diet. Eating more potatoes also results in a greater drop in systolic blood pressure than taking potassium supplements, according to the study. The research, conducted by scientists at Purdue University, was funded by the Alliance for Potato Research and Education..

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In an experiment involving 30 pre-hypertensive to hypertensive men and women, researchers also discovered that French fries aren’t necessarily bad for the heart. In fact, their study shows having a 330-calorie serving of baked French fries along with a normal diet had no effect on the participants’ blood pressure.

“While significant emphasis is often placed on reducing dietary sodium intakes to better control for blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk, that’s only half of the story,” explains primary investigator Connie Weaver, PhD, in a media release. “Potassium plays just as an important role, and perhaps the ratio of potassium to sodium is most important in the context of the entire food matrix, as the potato meal resulted in a greater reduction of sodium retention than the potassium supplement alone.”

Potatoes are already a major part of the American diet

Study authors note that there has been little research into potassium’s impact on blood pressure. Their report is one of the first to look at adding dietary potassium as a means of preventing hypertension.

“It’s important to establish clinical trials that follow observational research to establish a causal link between diet and health,” Weaver says. “For example, in this clinical study baked French fries had a null effect on blood pressure, which counters observational findings, at least in the short term, and helps to prioritize the importance of focusing on a total diet approach for maintaining health versus one that overemphasizes avoidance of any single food or food group.”

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SOURCE: Study Finds, Chris Melore

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