Can potatoes help you lose weight?

January 29, 2015
Volume 12    |   Issue 05

A high-fat diet that contains a lot of refined carbohydrates is usually a prescription for weight gain. But two scientists at McGill University were shocked to discover that they could limit weight gain in mice when they added another food to their diet. In fact, they were so surprised at their results that they repeated their experiment just to be sure.

Stan Kubow, associate professor in the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition and a polyphenol expert conducted this study. He had the help of Danielle Donnelly. She is an associate professor in the Department of Plant Science and an expert on potatoes. Yes, potatoes.

They decided to feed mice a diet designed to increase weight gain for 10 weeks. But one group received an extract high in polyphenols made from 30 Irish potatoes. The mice started out at an average weight of 25 grams. They all gained weight, but the control group gained an average of 16 grams while the group that received the extract gained only 7 grams.

One of the other study authors, Professor Luis Agellon, admits, "We were astonished by the results. 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."

It turns out that potatoes are quite high in polyphenols. In fact, Kubow explains, “In the famous French diet, considered to be very healthy, potatoes — not red wine — are the primary source of polyphenols. In North America, potatoes come third as a source of polyphenols — before the popular blueberries.”

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Of course, the researchers are not suggesting we eat 30 potatoes a day. That would lead to weight gain, not fight it! They're hoping to develop an extract from potatoes that can provide polyphenols to humans, much like the one they used on the mice. They believe this extract could help prevent both obesity and type-2 diabetes.

It's definitely an interesting approach. It’s quite possible the extract will work better than the whole food, as the extract was full of polyphenols, but may not have the full dose of potato starch. The starchy carbohydrate of a full potato could encourage more weight gain. So if you want to lose weight, you can eat a potato in moderation. Its polyphenols have tremendous benefits. But make sure you avoid eating a diet high in fat and refined carbohydrates along with it. After all, that’s what the mice ate.

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