Packing on the Pounds? Blame the Potato

July 13, 2011
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Americans gain nearly one pound of weight each year after reaching adulthood. Scientists have long speculated about the source of that gain. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine blames it on the lowly potato.

Americans gain nearly one pound of weight each year after reaching adulthood. Scientists have long speculated about the source of that gain. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine blames it on the lowly potato.

On the basis of increased daily servings of individual dietary components, 4-year weight change was most strongly associated with the intake of potato chips (1.69 lb), potatoes (1.28 lb), sugar-sweetened beverages (1.00 lb), unprocessed red meats (0.95 lb), and processed meats (0.93 lb) and was inversely associated with the intake of vegetables (−0.22 lb), whole grains (−0.37 lb), fruits (−0.49 lb), nuts (−0.57 lb), and yogurt (−0.82 lb) (P≤0.005 for each comparison).

About half of the 3.3 pounds adults gained over a four year period could be attributed to potato chips.

Interestingly, Western Civilization owns much of its prominence to the potato. When brought back to Europe in the late 15th Century, the potato caused a population explosion that helped man armies.  Potatoes could grow in areas of Northern Europe that once could barely support settlement.  Easily mashed into baby food, more infants survived and could be weaned sooner speeding up the reproductive cycle.