Potato extract may help prevent weight gain, according to a study conducted by researchers from McGill University and published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.
“We were astonished by the results,” researcher Luis Agellon said. “We thought this can’t be right — in fact, we ran the experiment again using a different batch of extract prepared from potatoes grown in another season, just to be certain.”
The study was funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Rich in polyphenols
For 10 weeks, the researchers fed mice a diet designed to produce obesity, high in fats and refined carbohydrates. As expected, the mice increased their weight by an average of 64 percent. However, mice fed a potato extract along with the obesity-promoting diet increased their weight by less than half as much, gaining only 28 percent.
The findings suggest that potato extract may be used to help prevent obesity, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The researchers believe that the benefits of potato extract likely come from its high concentration of polyphenols, a family of plant chemicals being linked to many health benefits.
“In the famous French diet, considered to be very healthy, potatoes — not red wine — are the primary source of polyphenols,” lead author Stan Kubow said. “In North America, potatoes come third as a source of polyphenols — before the popular blueberries.”
“Potatoes have the advantage of being cheap to produce, and they’re already part of the basic diet in many countries,” Kubow said. “We chose a cultivated variety that is consumed in Canada and especially rich in polyphenols.”
The researchers hope to make the extract available as a dietary supplement or a cooking ingredient. They are now seeking food industry partners to fund clinical trials.
“The daily dose of extract comes from 30 potatoes,” Kubow said, “but of course we don’t advise anyone to eat 30 potatoes a day, as that would be an enormous number of calories.”
May produce weight loss
Evidence continues to emerge that, in spite of their reputation as a dieters’ bane, potatoes are not incompatible with weight loss.
“Some people have questioned the role of potatoes in a weight loss regimen because of the vegetable’s designation as a high glycemic index food,” said Dr. Britt Burton-Freeman, PhD, lead researcher of a study into potatoes and weight loss published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in October 2014. The study was conducted by researchers from the University of California at Davis and the Illinois Institute of Technology.
“However, the results of this study confirm what health professionals and nutrition experts have said for years: it is not about eliminating a certain food or food groups, rather, it is reducing calories that count,” Burton-Freeman said.
The researchers randomly assigned overweight adults either one of two reduced-calorie diets (high-glycemic-index or low-glycemic-index) or to a control group with no dietary restrictions. All three groups were instructed to consume five to seven servings of potatoes per week and were provided with both potatoes and healthy recipes for preparing them.
After 12 weeks, all three groups had lost weight, with no difference in the amount of weight loss between groups.
“There is no evidence that potatoes, when prepared in a healthful manner, contribute to weight gain,” Burton-Freeman said. “In fact, we are seeing that they can be part of a weight loss program.”
Aside from their potential weight-regulating benefits, potatoes are simply a nutritious food. When consumed with the skin, a medium-sized, 5.3 oz potato provides 45 percent of a person’s daily vitamin C needs, and more potassium than a banana.
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