Because I am so happy to find interesting science articles to review with my audience, we are now going to look at a new study that shows that potatoes can be a part of a healthy diet. Yes, I was surprised too.
As I usually do, let’s take a look at this study and see if it has any merit.
Potatoes and diet research
In a paper published on 25 December 2022 in the Journal of Medicinal Food, John P Kirwan, Ph.D., Integrative Physiology and Molecular Medicine Laboratory, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, and colleagues reviewed data from a randomized clinical trial that compared potato and bean diets (50–55% carbohydrate, 30–35% fat, 15–20% protein).
Here are their findings:
- Potatoes do not increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, as has been assumed by many dieticians.
- Since people tend to eat the same weight of food, regardless of caloric content, to feel full, study participants found themselves feeling more quickly fuller when high-calories items of their meals were replaced by potatoes.
- Overweight, obese, and insulin-resistant participants did not exhibit changes in blood glucose levels when consuming potatoes.
- All participants who consumed potatoes in their diet lost weight.
- Because people typically do not stick with a diet that has foods that they don’t like or the food isn’t varied enough. However, potatoes can be prepared in many different ways that tend to make it easier to stick with the diet.
This sounds great, so what’s the catch?
All this sounds promising, but there is a catch. This study only included 36 participants (age: 18–60 years, body mass index: 25–40 kg/m2) with insulin resistance. It was not a double-blind trial (it would be almost impossible to blind participants and researchers to those eating potatoes and those who weren’t).
A small study, such as this one, has a lot of limitations including small statistical differences, bias (especially since the trial couldn’t be blinded), and other issues like pure randomness of the results.
Finally, the study only lasted eight weeks, so we have no idea what the results would be over a lifetime of consuming potatoes.
As I have written before, studies on nutrition and diet have very limited scientific and clinical relevance. There are so many confounding factors that it is difficult to determine whether it is a potato diet or something else that led to these results. And as I always say, a correlation may not imply causation.
On the other hand, the researchers made a compelling argument about why it might work. It is possible that because potatoes are so dense that it does reduce the amount of food consumed. But if slather butter, sour cream, and salt onto those baked potatoes that are part of your diet, I’m not convinced that you could lose weight since the number of calories consumed must be less than the number of calories burned to lose weight.
And just to be clear, a potato chip diet is not going to work, though I’d be happy if it did.
I’m going to give this study two out of five stars. It’s compelling, but I’m far from convinced that eating potatoes will work as a weight-loss diet. I’d like to see a large clinical trial that lasted at least one year, then maybe I’d jump on board.
So, even though this study is interesting, don’t start eating potatoes as part of your healthy diet.
- Rebello CJ, Beyl RA, Greenway FL, Atteberry KC, Hoddy KK, Kirwan JP. Low-Energy Dense Potato- and Bean-Based Diets Reduce Body Weight and Insulin Resistance: A Randomized, Feeding, Equivalence Trial. J Med Food. 2022 Dec;25(12):1155-1163. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2022.0072. Epub 2022 Nov 11. PMID: 36367708; PMCID: PMC9805852.