In 2017, it’s the new normal to have a constant stream of nutrition studies telling us anything and everything we eat can potentially kill us (except, of course, the ever-perfect Mediterranean diet). We’re used to it. Meat, sugar, dairy, booze — everything that tastes delicious is sure to be terrible for you.
Of course, sometimes these studies sound more logical than others. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who eat fried potatoes two or more times a week double their risk of an early death compared to those who avoid them.
The study looked at 4,440 participants between 45 to 79 years old and found that eating potatoes alone doesn’t indicate an increased risk of overall mortality — good news for fans of baked or mashed! — but people who ate fried potatoes two or three times per week were twice as likely to die early. That’s pretty serious.
It’s actually pretty scary: Fried potatoes, whether they’re French fries, tater tots, hash browns, Irish Nachos, or anything else delicious that happens to involve potatoes and piping hot oil, are a seriously dangerous (and dangerously common) food.
Still, keep in mind that this was an observational study, meaning there could be other factors involved. Maybe, for example, the people eating lots of fried potatoes were also overweight, had heart issues or were more sedentary. It also stands to reason that people eating fried potatoes that often might have an overall less healthy diet than the ones who don’t. Plus, fried potatoes tend to involve lots of oil and salt, both known to be bad for you. So, how do we know it’s the potatoes that are to blame?
“Even if it’s 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,” says Dr. Nicola Veronese, lead author of the study and a scientist at the National Research Council in Padova, Italy. “Trans-fat has been shown to raise ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol in the blood, which can lead to heart disease.”
So, if heart problems run in your family or you’re a french fry addict who’s simply concerned about your health, it certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea to cut back just to play it safe. Why not experiment with mashed or oven-baked varieties? These garlic mashed and baked sweet potato recipes look just as mouthwatering as the fried kind.