French fries are incredibly delicious, but they might also be shortening our lifespans — at least according to a study published in June in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The research was performed over an eight-year period. More than 4,000 people, aged 45 to 79, participated in the study, which was centered on osteoarthritis.
Participants were divided into groups based on their potato consumption, according to CNN. Over the course of the study, 236 of the participants died. Comparing people who ate fried potatoes at least twice a week with people who ate no fried potatoes, the researchers found that those in the former group were twice as likely to die early.
The researchers defined “fried potatoes” as anything potato-related and prepared in a fryer, which includes French fries, potato chips and hash browns. They said men and younger people were more likely to consume such food than women and older people.
No link was found between consumption of potatoes that had not been fried and increased mortality. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that one doesn’t exist.
“The frequent consumption of fried potatoes appears to be associated with an increased mortality risk,” read the study’s conclusion. “Additional studies in larger sample sizes should be performed to confirm if overall potato consumption is associated with higher mortality risk.”
While the study’s lead author, Dr. Nicola Veronese, was careful to note that more research is needed in order to make a definitive judgment, he said he believes that the findings are accurate.
“Even if it is an observational study, we believe that the cooking oil, rich in trans-fat, is an important factor in explaining mortality in those eating more potatoes,” Veronese said.
CNN reports that consumption of trans-fat is known to raise a person’s “bad” cholesterol, leading to cardiovascular disease.
Veronese added that other factors, such as obesity and physical inactivity, may have contributed to the increased mortality of some of the participants.
John Keeling, CEO of the National Potato Council, pushed back against the study, stating that it “isn’t relevant to the general population” since all of the subjects were people suffering from arthritis.
“Potatoes are inherently a very healthy vegetable,” he told CNN. “How the potato is prepared will impact the calorie, fat and sodium content.”
He added that, in his view, “it is very much a stretch to brand fried potatoes, or any other form of potato, as unhealthy.”
Susanna Larsson of the Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden, argued that the study contained “no evidence” suggesting that potato consumption leads to increased mortality. Rather, she thinks eating fried potatoes is merely a sign of broader lifestyle issues that are known to cause early death.
“Fried potato consumption may be an indicator of a less healthy dietary pattern which is associated with increased mortality,” she explained.