The annual global output of potatoes is in the ballpark of 368 million tons, two-thirds of which are destined directly for humans, who consume an average of 73 pounds every year in baked, boiled, mashed, and deep-fried variations.
But once again, pesky scientists have taken it upon themselves to understand the potentially negative impact of long-term potato intake on blood pressure. For more than 20 years, a team of researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School followed over 187,000 male and female participants from three large US studies.
They found that a diet consisting of four or more servings a week of baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes was associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure compared with less than one serving a month. Interestingly, these results applied only to female participants.
But it gets worse, according to the study, which is the first to investigate the link between potatoes and hypertension. Consumption of French fries was associated with a higher risk of hypertension in both women and men. Yet, counterintuitively, consumption of potato chips was not associated with any increased blood pressure risk.
Because potatoes have a higher glycemic index compared to other vegetable, they can "trigger a sharp rise in blood sugar levels, and this could be one explanation for the findings," the authors explained in a press release. And while the exact reason for the increased risk isn't exactly clear, the practical implications are.
Because of their high potassium content, spuds have recently been included as vegetables in the US government meal programs. As a result, the team said that their results could "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."
All of which doesn't really bode well for our buddy Andrew Taylor, who is eating only potatoes for an entire year in an effort to get healthy and lose weight. He might want to keep an eye on his blood pressure.