Potatoes are not entirely without health risks, but could one really kill you?
As we reported earlier, a recent study showed that potatoes could increase the risk of gestational diabetes in pregnant woman, and expecting mothers should take this into consideration when deciding on whether or not to skip the fries. But are the risks posed by eating potatoes even more serious?
By nearly every measure, the answer is no. According to a report from Mashable, the study showed that of a sample group of women, those who consumed the most potatoes were the most likely to suffer from gestational diabetes. The study’s findings were published in the British Medical Journal.
According to dietician Rachel Berman, “Gestational diabetes refers to high blood glucose levels during pregnancy – about 4 percent of women develop gestational diabetes. People with an individual or family history of type 2 diabetes, who are overweight, over 25 and of certain races are at increased risk for gestational diabetes. The exact cause is unclear although changes in hormone levels during pregnancy impact insulin levels which help regulate the glucose, or sugar, in your bloodstream.”
Potatoes do have a high glycemic index, which causes blood sugar levels to rise. This stresses cells in the pancreas responsible for making insulin, and could lead to some serious health complications. The link between gestational diabetes and foods with a high glycemic index is further complicated by the high rate of women who develop type 2 diabetes following a battle with gestational diabetes.
The study examined 15,000 women and their diets as a part of the Nurse’s Health Study carried out by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in conjunction with Harvard University. Of the sample group, 854 women developed gestational diabetes. These women reported eating more potatoes than the participants that did not develop gestational diabetes, but it is important to note that none of them died as a result.
Interestingly enough, adding more legumes and whole grains to their diet was shown to offset the risk of developing gestational diabetes by a considerable amount. By substituting two servings of potatoes a week with a different type of vegetable, scientists found that women could lower their risk of gestational diabetes by as much as 12 percent.
While it is important to maintain a healthy diet containing a wide variety of foods, the risks posed by potatoes are no more severe than those posed by other starchy foods.
A press release from NICHD describing the recent study can be found here.