WEDNESDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- French fries and potato
chips may have given potatoes a bad rap, but new research finds the
lowly tuber -- when cooked correctly -- may actually be good for
A small, pilot study suggests that a couple of servings of
potatoes per day can lower blood pressure as much as oatmeal
without causing weight gain, researchers said.
Joe Vinson, a professor of chemistry at the University of
Scranton in Pennsylvania, analyzed 18 patients who ate six to eight
small purple potatoes twice daily for a month and found their
systolic and diastolic blood pressures (the top and bottom numbers
on a blood pressure reading) dropped by 3.5 and 4.3 percent,
Most patients were either overweight or obese, and many were
already taking medications for high blood pressure during the
study, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and
was to be presented Wednesday at the national meeting of the
American Chemical Society in Denver. Experts note that research
presented at scientific meetings is preliminary and has not yet
Vinson pointed out that potatoes can be a healthy food when
they're not in the form of French fries or chips, or covered in
high-fat toppings such as cheese and sour cream.
Purple ones, in particular, have high amounts of antioxidants,
although red-skinned or white potatoes may have similar effects, he
The golf ball-sized potatoes used in the study were microwaved,
which Vinson called a "benign" cooking method that doesn't add fat
or calories or destroy healthy substances in potatoes.
"Everyone thought potatoes were just a starch and pretty much nothing else," said Vinson, explaining spuds' poor nutritional reputation. "I was surprised . . . a very large proportion (of participants) were taking medications and still we had a drop in blood pressure."
Lona Sandon, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic
Association, said she wasn't surprised about the study results,
noting that potatoes are an excellent source of potassium, which is
known to help control blood pressure.
"I'm kind of glad to see someone saying something good about potatoes," said Sandon, also an assistant professor of nutrition at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. "Potatoes are a pretty healthy staple food. They're nutritionally low in fat, relatively low in calories, and are loaded with nutrition, particularly in the skin."
Sandon noted that the study's small size made it difficult to
draw solid conclusions and said that the skin of purple potatoes
likely contains more of certain blood pressure-lowering
antioxidants than those of white potatoes.
"The skin is key," she said. "That's where the nutrients are."
The purple potatoes used in the study are becoming increasingly
available in supermarkets and specialty food stores, Vinson
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
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