Study co-author Luigi Fontana, of Brescia University Medical School and CEINGE Biotecnologie Avanzate – both in Italy – and colleagues came to their findings after analyzing the data of more than 4,400 adults from the United States.
In the U.S., potatoes are a diet staple, especially in processed forms. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), processed potatoes – including french fries and potato chips – accounted for 64 percent of total potato use in the U.S. during the 2000s, compared with just 35 percent in the 1960s.
While potatoes can form part of a healthful diet, some studies have suggested that eating too many may pose health risks. A study reported by Medical News Today last year, for example, found that eating four or more portions of potatoes each week may raise the risk of high blood pressure.
For this latest research, Fontana and colleagues set out to investigate the effects of potato consumption on mortality, which is a subject that they believe has been understudied.
The study included the data of 4,440 adults who were a part of the Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI) cohort study.
Participants were aged between 45 and 79 years at study baseline, and they were followed up for an average of 8 years.
As part of the OAI study, subjects were required to complete a food frequency questionnaire. Fontana and colleagues used these data to determine participants’ overall weekly potato consumption, as well as their weekly intake of fried and unfried potatoes.
During the 8-year follow-up, a total of 236 participants died.
Overall potato intake was not associated with mortality risk, the researchers found. However, when conducting a subgroup analysis, the researchers uncovered some interesting results.
Compared with adults who did not consume fried potatoes – such as french fries, potato chips, or hash browns – those who ate around two to three portions of fried potatoes each week were found to have double the risk of premature death, and eating more than three portions further increased this risk.
However, the researchers found no link between the intake of unfried potatoes and early death risk.
Since the study is solely observational, no firm conclusions can be made about how the consumption of fried potatoes influences the risk of premature death. Still, the researchers believe that their findings offer food for thought.
The team concludes:
“The frequent consumption of fried potatoes appears to be associated with an increased mortality risk. Additional studies in larger sample sizes should be performed to confirm if overall potato consumption is associated with higher mortality risk.”