Potatoes have been regarded as something of a wonder vegetable since they were first brought over by 16th century explorers returning from the Americas. Able to grow in conditions that would kill other vegetables, while providing filling and nutritious meals, the discovery of potatoes by Europeans led to a massive population boom in the early modern period as food supplies were supplemented by the versatile little nugget of mash. Unfortunately, though, they may also have risks.
No we're not just talking about the Irish Potato Famine. It turns out that eating too many potatoes can also increase risks of type 2 diabetes as well. As if Jamie Oliver didn't already have enough reasons for wanting chips out of school cafeterias.
The revelation comes from a study conducted not too long ago by Harvard researchers, a Dr Qi Sun M.D. S.C.D., Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and his colleagues. Analysing data collected from men and women who didn't have any sort of diabetes, cancer or cardiovascular disorders, they were able to find evidence that saw a correlation between consumption of potatoes and increased diabetes.
As potatoes are high in carbohydrates and starches, they can produce a significant amount of glucose within the bloodstream. If potatoes are served hot, the starch becomes more easily digestible and can more quickly raise the levels of glucose, which can quickly help develop the onset of diabetes.
70, 773 women and 40,669 men were examined in total, and were asked to note how much potatoes they ate and how it was prepared (mashed, baked, fried, etc.). Crisps were excluded for the purpose of the study.
Four years later, all participants were assessed to see how frequently type 2 diabetes occurred within the study. It was soon quickly established that those had larger helpings of potatoes, however they were cooked, tended to have more cases of type two diabetes than those who had relatively little potatoes. These results were still the case even when taking into account demographics, diet, lifestyle, and BMI. Naturally, chips and French fries were found to be the worst culprits, raising the risk of diabetes for every three servings a week by 19%. Other varieties only raised it by around 4%.
It was found that eating seven portions of potatoes a week significantly increased the risk of type two diabetes, while three additional servings increased it even further. Conversely, replacing three or more of those portions with wholegrains reduced the risk of diabetes.
Wholegrains can include any sorts of grain such as dark bread, popcorn, porridge, bran, brown rice, couscous and other such grain products. Supplementing the diet, they can help balance out the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream through potatoes, as well as providing other health benefits.
Scientists behind the study also recommend supplementing your diet with other healthy fruit and vegetables in order to ensure a healthy and robust physique. Further, such a diet can also significantly decrease your chance of diabetes, which can help counterbalance any potatoes still existent within your diet. There's no real reason to stop eating them entirely, after all. In particular doctors recommend apples, grapes and blueberries, as consuming three portions each week helped drop the chance of diabetes by a full 23%.
Such dietary habits can be beneficial even if already suffering from diabetes, as they can help regulate the amount of glucose within your blood.
There are also numerous pharmaceutical methods to treating and protecting against type two diabetes and the effects it can have on the body. The most well-known are insulin pens, however they're more for dealing with diabetic attacks that are already occurring than treating them. Meanwhile the pharmaceutical metformin can help prevent such attacks by reducing the amount of sugar the blood absorbs, while helping your body better adapt to the amount of sugar in the system.