Potatoes, Especially French Fries, Raise Diabetes Risk

Qi Sun, MD ScD Assistant Professor of Medicine Channing Division of Network Medicine Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School Assistant Professor Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health 665 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115

Dr. Qi Sun

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Qi Sun Sc.D
Assistant Professor
Department of Nutrition
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Boston, Massachusetts 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Qi Sun: Potato is considered as a vegetable in certain dietary recommendations, such as in the U.S. MyPlate food guide, whereas in the U.K. national food guide, potato is grouped with cereal as sources of carbohydrates. Potato foods are typically higher in glycemic index and glycemic load, but data are rare regarding whether individual and total potato foods are associated with chronic diseases. In this analysis, we focused on diabetes and found that a higher consumption of total potato foods and individual potato foods, especially french fries, was associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in three large cohort studies of ~200 thousand U.S. men and women. In addition, we found that increased potato food consumption over time was associated with a subsequent increased risk of developing diabetes.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Qi Sun: Potatoes should not be regarded as healthy vegetables. Instead, potatoes are rich in starchy that can significantly lead to deteriorated glucose response and a higher diabetes risk when the consumption levels are high. For people who have elevated risk of developing diabetes, potato consumption should be reduced.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Qi Sun: The role of refined carbohydrates, from either foods such as potatoes or sugar added to foods and beverages, in the etiology of cardiometabolic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes, shall be further elucidated and substantiated.


Diabetes Care. 2015 Dec 17. pii: dc150547. [Epub ahead of print]

Potato Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Results from Three Prospective Cohort Studies.

Muraki I1, Rimm EB2, Willett WC2, Manson JE3, Hu FB2, Sun Q4.

Dr. Qi Sun Sc.D (2015). Potatoes, Especially French Fries, Raise Diabetes Risk 

  • Stipetic
    Posted at 09:35h, 23 December Reply

    Dr. Sun, when did the potato become an unrefined carbohydrate? Regardless, since potatoes as you say, and carbohydrates in general, deteriorate glucose control in diabetics, it would make sense to combat diabetes with a low carb diet, right?

  • David Leonardi, M.D.
    Posted at 17:30h, 21 December Reply

    Seriously, who funded this study? Potatoes have a glycemic index of 85 (table sugar 64). We’ve had this information since the mid 90s. We need to spend research dollars far more wisely and not use them simply to support academia. You should be embarrassed for publishing this.

  • Lorraine Porcaro
    Posted at 16:22h, 21 December Reply

    Where other considerations taken into account in this study? Primarily, the overall dietary patterns of persons who consume these products. Can french fries alone be associated with the prevalence of diabetes, or is it more global (increased caloric intake, BMI, etc.)? Second, was there consideration of the combination of carbohydrate along with fat, which can increase the glycemic impact of starch for hours, secondarily increasing the insulin response necessary for the maintenance of euglycemia. Not sure if french fries are the culprit here, or if it is the population consuming them, coupled with the associated insulin response secondary to fat. Hopefully, potatoes will not take the rap here, but = more attention should be paid to total caloric, fat and carbohydrate intake by those persons who frequent the restaurants that serve these products.

  • Pete
    Posted at 01:29h, 21 December Reply

    Knew this was true! I’ve had to be really careful with my diet since being diagnosed with Diabetes. Only thing thats really helped me so far is the diabetes escape plan ( http://zappohealth.com/diabetes-escape-plan/ ) – At least now I know when I can eat most of the foods I want whilst not having to worry about my blood sugar.

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