Three separate studies found that eating potatoes four or more times per week leads to an increased risk of high blood pressure, according to a May New York Times article on The BMJ study.
“Researchers pooled results from three observational studies involving 187,453 men and women followed for more than 25 years,” the New York Times article stated. “The participants returned health and diet questionnaires every two years, including whether a doctor had diagnosed hypertension.”
Researchers study stated that in three cohorts of women and men living in the U.S. who had a higher long term intake of baked, boiled or mashed potatoes, there was a significantly higher risk of hypertension that was independent of numerous other predictors of risk, including dietary factors like whole grain intake and whole fruit and vegetable intake.
“Higher consumption of French fries was associated with incident hypertension in all three cohorts, whereas potato chip intake was associated with no increased risk,” researchers in the study wrote. “To our knowledge this study is the first to examine potato consumption and the incidence of hypertension.”
Researchers stated concern that the Institutes of Medicine and U.S. Department of Agriculture continue to recommend white potatoes, allowing them to be part of the fruit and vegetable cash voucher WIC program, according to the study.
According to the Federal Register website, white potatoes are not offered in the WIC food package. Though they excluded them as a final rule from 2007 (updated on the site in March 2014) many commenters were against the exclusion.
“A total of 266 (of these, 213 were form letters) opposed the restriction of white potatoes,” the Federal Register site stated. “Commenters stated that white potatoes should be included in the WIC food packages because they are versatile, economical, contain key nutrients and are preferred by participants. Thirty-two commenters (20 form letters) stated the exclusion of white potatoes is difficult to administer.”
A 2015 IOM report seeks to reverse the exclusion.
“The committee recommends that the U.S. Department of Agriculture undertake a separate, comprehensive examination of currently available data to assess the effectiveness of the current cash value voucher in meeting participants’ food pattern and dietary intake goals as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, including use of white potatoes in the context of cultural diversity among WIC participants,” the IOM report stated.
Potatoes have been touted by health professionals because of potassium, according to the researchers. “High potassium intake has been associated with a lower blood pressure,” they wrote. “However, we found that higher potato intake was associated with an increased, rather than decreased, risk of developing hypertension.”
Under its nutritional information facts, The National Potato Council lists potatoes as “Sodium Free” and states, “Low sodium diets help to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.” It also points to the high fiber content, adding, “Diets high in fiber are beneficial for a healthy digestive system and may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.”
The researchers of the BMJ article concluded, “These findings have potentially important public health ramifications, as they do not support a potential benefit from the inclusion of potatoes as vegetables in government food programs, but instead support a harmful effect that is consistent with adverse effects of high carbohydrate intakes seen in controlled feeding studies.”
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To learn more about the care of patients with hypertension take the continuing education module, “Hypertension.”