Potato study carries little weight

It's no surprise that eating french fries will make you fat

July 13, 2011|Susan Reimer

Let me see if I understand.

Medical researchers at Harvard University followed a couple of hundred thousand nurses for as long as 35 years and came to the remarkable conclusion that, though we all gain weight as we age, potatoes — french fries and potato chips, in particular — will cause us to gain more weight.

And, in other ground-breaking news from the study, watching television also causes you to gain more weight.

I am not sure where to go with this. Except to say that the real headline might be that desserts don't cause you to gain nearly as much weight as you think.

The study was published recently in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, and the researchers seemed to have tossed out basic diet math — you have to burn the calories you consume — and concluded that certain foods cause you to gain more weight than others, and potatoes are one of them.

And among the many ways you can have your potatoes — baked and served with sour cream or butter, wedged and roasted with olive oil, sea salt and a little fresh ground pepper — the absolute worst potatoes to consume are those that are deep-fried.

I haven't eaten french fries or potato chips since 1988, so you can imagine that I am a little annoyed that the weight isn't just falling off. But now I understand that this isn't about losing weight. It is about not gaining as much as everybody else. About a pound a year as we age.

Why are potatoes such a culprit?

Probably, the experts concluded, because you are likely to consume them in such large quantities. I am thinking of that tub of Boardwalk fries or a family-size bag of Lay's. ("Nobody can eat just one.")

And possibly because potatoes cause a spike in blood sugar that quickly retreats, leaving you hungry and ready for a snack.

The report also offered this news bulletin: People who exercise gain less weight and people who increased their exercise as they aged gained even less.

And people who eat yogurt and nuts gained less weight over time.

My guess is this: If you are the kind of person who eats french fries and potato chips, you are probably eating all kinds of other junk, too. Such as sugary drinks, red meats, processed meats, and sweets or desserts — all guilty of causing increased weight gain over time.

And the reason calories-in/calories-out doesn't work for you is because you are kidding yourself about how much you eat, especially when it comes to french fries and chips.

But if you are someone who eats yogurt and nuts on a regular basis, you probably make lots of other healthful food choices. You probably exercise, too. And I'll bet you don't watch a whole lot of television.

I am not sure why it took all those years and all those nurses to figure this out, but there you have it.


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