Eating potatoes could increase the risk of high blood pressure
Eating several helpings of potatoes or chips a week increases the risk of high blood pressure, new research suggests.
Scientists in America found that four helpings of the starchy vegetable a week increased the risk of blood pressure, also known as hypertension, by as much as 11%.
The study did not ask participants to differentiate between baked, boiled or mashed potatoes, but the team from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s hospital said it was possible there was a higher risk associated with specific methods of cooking potatoes.
The researchers did, however, ask participants in the study how often they ate chips and found there was a 17% increased risk of high blood pressure from four helpings a week.
But the study contained good news for snack lovers, with the research establishing no association between eating crisps and high blood pressure.
Lead author Dr Lea Borgi said that potatoes have not traditionally been associated with causing disease.
“There hasn’t really been any obvious link between potatoes and hypertension in the past,” she said.
“There has recently been some suggestion that eating potatoes can be linked to Type 2 diabetes, but apart from that this is a surprise.
“But with fries we have known for some time there are associated health risks, so that was less of a surprise,” she added”
Published in the British Medical Journal, the study said that replacing one serving a day of potatoes with non-starchy vegetables led to a 7 percent drop in the risk of high blood pressure.
The research suggests that it is the high glycaemic index (GI) of potatoes that could be to blame.
Foods high in GI release more energy quickly and therefore raises blood sugar more quickly, which can in turn raise blood pressure.
The team said high-GI meals were already associated with the dysfunction of cells in the body, such as oxidative stress and inflammation, as “potentially important mechanisms in the development of hypertension”.
The scientists, who studied 187,000 over 20 years, said their results accounted for factors such as the weight of their participants, which can also influence blood pressure.
However, the authors acknowledged that, as with any observational study, no firm conclusions could be drawn about cause and effect.
The overall analysis of the different cohorts examined in the study showed a roughly equal associated risk between men and women,
But some individual cohorts showed a dramatically increased associated risk in women than men, a phenomenon Dr Borgi said merited further investigation.
“I think the important aspect of this work is that it needs to start a discussion about what place potatoes have in a healthy diet,” she said.
In January a separate study found women who enjoy potatoes may be at increased risk of diabetes in pregnancy.
The research said that those who eat two to four servings of potatoes a week may be around 27% more at risk, even when taking into account their weight.
Even one serving a week appeared to increase the risk by 20% and those eating more than five servings a week had a 50% increased risk.