Potatoes have existed for a very long time and in many countries they are a staple in the local diets. And they never caused obesity or health problems. But an American study now says that potatoes cause hypertension (high blood pressure). Luckily a few Australian experts are not so sure and want to produce their own study. That’s the common way researchers keep themselves in a job. Too bad that these Australians don’t produce anything useful either.
Let’s first analyse what hypertension is. It means that the blood is pushed through the arteries with more pressure, to make sure that it still arrives everywhere to feed the cells. There is always a reason why the blood pressure is higher. Hypertension is not a disease, it’s a symptom that something is wrong. The body is very well able to regulate its own fuctions and it does everything for a reason (though we might not always know the reason). Can eating one food cause hypertension? That’s extremely unlikely, unless it is highly processed food loaded with chemicals. But that’s not food, but stomach filling.
It is possible that some people are oversensitive to potatoes (or another kind of food), which causes problems in the body, which results in high blood pressure. But then it’s still not the food itself that’s responsible for the hypertension, but the body reacts properly to another problem in the body, like hardening of the arteries.
“They said the issue was especially important due to the potato’s recent inclusion as a vegetable in school lunch programs across the US.” Here the first problem shows up clearly. American school lunch programs are known for the high amount of junk food. So when it says “potatoes”, then most likely they talk about in canola oil friend junk food. And that will likely cause problems in the body, which lead to hypertension. But here you see one of the big problems with studies that link food to disease. It’s very hard to exactly study how the food is eaten. Fried, baked, steamed, boiled, it can make a huge difference. A steamed organic potato is something completely different than a bag of GMO potato chips. Still for researchers they are usually both counted as potatoes.
It looks like the study was based on self-reporting, which is a notoriously unreliable method. Still it’s widely used. “four or more servings a week of baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes was associated with an increased risk of hypertension,” There is such a nice word again: “associated”. I never understand what they mean with that, but it usually sounds like “wild guess”. First of all, were those potatoes really boiled or baked, or where they actually fried? People have a habit of cheating with such reports. Second, what was eaten with those potatoes? It’s absurd to study just one food and then come to conclusions based on that. Third, were they organic, non-organic or GMO potatoes? How was a serving calculated and reported? I could go on and on and you see that such studies are a waste of time and money. Whatever the conclusion is, it will be wrong and useless.
“high consumption of French fries was associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure in both men and women.” And they had to do a 20+ year study to come to this conclusion. Junk food is bad for you. Really? But even here there is a difference between home made fries from fresh potatoes or the junk you buy at a fast food outlet. And the type of oil also makes a huge difference. Peanut oil is usually OK, but canola oil is toxic rubbish. But who cares about such details. A study like this is not about facts or good science. It’s not even about the outcome. It’s just a way to keep researchers in a well-paid job.
“it would be far more useful to look at a person’s overall diet, rather than just one food.” Wow, dr. Laws, who would have thought about that? “findings from the study were far from clear cut.” This is a huge understatement, for as I stated above, a study like this has zero value. It doesn’t say anthing whatsoever. Not if you do it for one year, ten years, twenty years or a century.
“Interestingly, eating potato chips or crisps was not linked to an increase in high blood pressure;” Aren’t these researchers funny? They come to the conclusion that eating boiled potatoes is dangerous, but eating the same potatoes as junk food doesn’t matter. I get such a feeling that this study was funded by the food industry, but that’s nothing more than an educated guess.
“The benefits outweigh the negatives” Dr. Reynolds also wants her name on the paper, so she throws in a silly comment. That way she can add a publication to her name, which is about all that matters nowadays. It doesn’t matter whether you produce good studies, you only need to produce studies. And it doesn’t matter whether a comment you publish makes sense. The number of publications makes your reputation, not the quality of your work. There are definitely some negatives about potatoes. They are often quite high in pesticides. And they can taste so good after they have been junked. And they are easy to use in a variety of processed foods. But that’s about it. Potatoes don’t make you fat and they don’t make you sick.
“to be included as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.” And anyone who talks about a “balanced diet” cannot be taken seriously about food. For there is never an explanation about that balance. Equal parts of healthy food and junk food is a balance. A hot dog with chips contains fat, protein and carbs, so you could very well say that that’s part of a balanced diet. And as long as extremely processed junk like margarine and canola oil are promoted as healthy food it’s better to completely ignore these experts.
A study like this is only good to put in the bottom drawer and forget about it. Or you can print it and eat fish and chips from it. As long as both are fried in healthy fat (not canola or sunflower oil) it’s not such a bad choice. Though you should have a piece or fruit afterwards. And don’t eat it every day, for after a while there aren’t enough of such junk studies anymore to eat it from.