The study showing that French fries are linked to a shorter lifespan
4440 participants were enrolled in it and followed for 8 years. Several groups who ate varying amounts of French fries were compared to control groups who ate cooked potatoes. The group who ate cooked potatoes only had no increased death rates over 8 years when compared to those who ate no potatoes.
However the French fry groups had the following mortality rates:
- French fries eaten 2-3 times per week: 1.95-fold increased mortality
- Ate French fries more than 3 times per week: 2.26-fold increased mortality.
What are fried potatoes? We already mentioned French fries, but hash browns and potato chips are also fried potatoes.
The study only showed a correlation between consumption of fried potatoes and mortality, but the strength is that the observation time was long, namely 8 years. This is a long time, which adds to the reliability of the study.
Discussion of the study
Several theories were put forward why fried potatoes could be dangerous to eat.
- Trans fats have been shown to increase LDL cholesterol that leads to atheromatous deposits in arteries and can cause heart attacks and strokes. Typically trans fats are used to fry French fries in, which may be the culprit.
- Both potato chips and French fries are used with a lot of salt. The addition of salt could cause other diseases like high blood pressure, which could in turn cause heart attacks and strokes.
- Cooking French fries at high heat produces the chemical acrylamide. Acrylamide is a known carcinogen and this could lead to premature deaths. Steaming or boiling starchy foods like potatoes will prevent this from happening.
Other opinion from Karolinska Institute, Stockholm
Susanna Larsson, an associate professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, added to the debate. She said that people who eat French fries usually eat more of a Western type diet that includes other unhealthy foods. Collectively this Western diet leads to more premature deaths.
At this point we only know there is an association between consumption of fried potatoes and a higher mortality. The study only found that an increased consumption of French fries is associated with mortality, but it cannot confirm that it caused this. The study also showed that boiled potatoes were safe to eat without an association of increased mortality. It would be safe to conclude that you are better off not to consume deep fried potatoes. If you want to consume potatoes, eat them steamed or boiled, which does not interfere with mortality. There remains a word of caution. Potatoes are a starchy food that will cause a spike in your insulin levels. The starch is transformed into sugar, which is not a health benefit. For this reason a limited intake of potatoes in any form is best for your health.