A higher intake of potatoes and French fries may be associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) in adults, according to researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
The findings of the study are published online in the British Medical Journal on May 17, 2016.
“In our observational study participants who did not have high blood pressure at baseline, and consumed four or more servings a week of potatoes (boiled, baked or mashed) later had a higher risk of developing hypertension compared to those who consumed one or less than one serving a month,” said lead author Lea Borgi, a physician in the Renal Division at BWH.
“Additionally, we found that if a participant replaced one serving of boiled, baked or mashed potato per day with a non-starchy vegetable, it was associated with a lower risk of hypertension.”
Through three prospective, longitudinal, US, cohort studies, researchers followed 62,175 women in the Nurses’ Health Study, 88,475 women in Nurses’ Health Study II and 36,803 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study who did not have high blood pressure at the beginning of the study.
Compared with consumption of less than one serving a month, participants who consumed four or more than four servings a week had an increased risk of hypertension of 11% for boiled, baked or mashed potatoes and of 17% for French fries.
The researchers did not find an association between the consumption of potato chips and a higher risk of developing hypertension.
The researchers acknowledge the possible limitations of their study, including the fact that participants self reported a diagnosis from a health care provider of high blood pressure.
“We take into account all of the data that are available to us and make the relevant statistical adjustments,” Borgi and colleagues note.
“However, because this is an observational study, there is always a possibility that our findings can be explained by something that we were not able to consider in our analysis.”
Although the study did not specifically ask participants what kind of potatoes they consumed, white potatoes are considered the most commonly eaten.
Future research will continue to focus on the association between potato consumption and increased risk for disease, including hypertension.
This study was funded by research grants by the National Institute of Health and an American Heart Association fellowship award.