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Higher consumption of potatoes may increase risk of hypertension

Study identifies an association between eating 4 or more servings a week of boiled, baked, mashed potatoes or French fries and an increase in the risk of high blood pressure

Brigham and Women's Hospital

Study identifies an association between eating four or more servings a week of boiled, baked, mashed potatoes or French fries and an increase in the risk of high blood pressure

Boston, MA - In a new study, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have found that a higher intake of potatoes and French fries may be associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) in adults.

The findings are published online in the British Medical Journal on May 17, 2016.

"In our observational study participants who did not have high blood pressure at baseline, and consumed four or more servings a week of potatoes (boiled, baked or mashed) later had a higher risk of developing hypertension compared to those who consumed one or less than one serving a month," said lead author Lea Borgi, MD, a physician in the Renal Division at BWH. "Additionally, we found that if a participant replaced one serving of boiled, baked or mashed potato per day with a non-starchy vegetable, it was associated with a lower risk of hypertension."

Through three prospective, longitudinal, US, cohort studies, researchers followed 62,175 women in the Nurses' Health Study, 88,475 women in Nurses' Health Study II and 36,803 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study who did not have high blood pressure at the beginning of the study.

Compared with consumption of less than one serving a month, participants who consumed 4 or more than 4 servings a week had an increased risk of hypertension of 11% for boiled, baked or mashed potatoes and of 17% for French fries. The researchers did not find an association between the consumption of potato chips and a higher risk of developing hypertension.

The researchers acknowledge the possible limitations of their study, including the fact that participants self reported a diagnosis from a health care provider of high blood pressure. "We take into account all of the data that are available to us and make the relevant statistical adjustments. However, because this is an observational study, there is always a possibility that our findings can be explained by something that we were not able to consider in our analysis," Borgi and colleagues note. Although the study did not specifically ask participants what kind of potatoes they consumed, white potatoes are considered the most commonly eaten.

Future research will continue to focus on the association between potato consumption and increased risk for disease, including hypertension.

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This study was funded by research grants by the National Institute of Health (UM1 CA186107, R01 HL034594, UM1 CA176726, UM1 CA167552, and R01 HL35464) and an American Heart Association fellowship award.

Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) is a 793-bed nonprofit teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a founding member of Partners HealthCare. BWH has more than 4.2 million annual patient visits and nearly 46,000 inpatient stays, is the largest birthing center in Massachusetts and employs nearly 16,000 people. The Brigham's medical preeminence dates back to 1832, and today that rich history in clinical care is coupled with its national leadership in patient care, quality improvement and patient safety initiatives, and its dedication toresearch, innovation, community engagement and educating and training the next generation of health care professionals. Through investigation and discovery conducted at its Brigham Research Institute (BRI), BWH is an international leader in basic, clinical and translational research on human diseases, more than 3,000 researchers, including physician-investigators and renowned biomedical scientists and faculty supported by nearly $666 million in funding. For the last 25 years, BWH ranked second in research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) among independent hospitals. BWH is also home to major landmark epidemiologic population studies, including the Nurses' and Physicians' Health Studies and the Women's Health Initiative as well as the TIMI Study Group, one of the premier cardiovascular clinical trials groups. For more information, resources and to follow us on social media, please visit BWH's online newsroom.

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