Researchers examined the impact of increased dietary potassium from baked/boiled potatoes and baked French fries as opposed to a potassium supplement on blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease risk factors in comparison to a ‘typical American’ control diet (lower potassium intake) among 30 pre-hypertensive to hypertensive individuals.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
Results revealed that including baked/boiled potato consumption as part of a typical American diet had the greatest benefit on reducing sodium retention, even more than the supplement, and led to a greater systolic blood pressure reduction in comparison to the control diet. Further, in spite of commonly held misbeliefs about French fries and their role in heart-healthy lifestyles, the researchers found that a 330-calorie serving of baked French fries, when eaten as part of a typical American diet, had no adverse effect on blood pressure or blood vessel function.
Despite the fact that significant emphasis is often placed on reducing dietary sodium intakes to better control for blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk, that’s only half of the story. Potassium plays just as an important role, and perhaps the ratio of potassium to sodium is most important in the context of the entire food matrix, as the potato meal resulted in a greater reduction of sodium retention than the potassium supplement alone.
Potatoes comprise roughly 20% of the vegetable intake in the American diet and help fill several nutrient gaps, including dietary fiber and potassium.1 Eating just 1 medium potato meets approximately 10% of an adult’s daily potassium needs. According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, potassium is an essential nutrient of concern, indicating most Americans aren’t consuming enough. The mineral has been linked to improvements in cardiovascular and other metabolic health outcomes – including decreased blood pressure in those with hypertension. Overall, potatoes and French fries represent about 7% and 3% of potassium intake, respectively, in the U.S.
Considering Americans fall significantly short in meeting daily potassium intakes, these results show the importance of promoting, not restricting, whole food good-to-excellent sources of potassium in Americans’ diets, such as potatoes.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of four 16-day dietary potassium interventions:
- Control diet including 2300 mg potassium/day (reflective of typical intake, considered to be ‘low potassium’)
- Control diet + 1000 mg of potassium from potatoes (baked, boiled, or pan-heated with no additional fat)
- Control diet + 1000 mg from baked French fries
- Control diet + 1000 mg from a potassium-gluconate supplement
Each diet was tailored to participants’ specific caloric needs while all other nutrients were kept constant. Blood pressure was measured across multiple visits of each phase, and participants also collected daily urine/stool samples to assess potassium and sodium excretion and retention.
The strengths of the study include a highly controlled diet, cross-over design, and excellent compliance. However, the researchers note a few limitations as well, including the study’s relatively small sample size, poor retention in study participation and relatively short study duration.
Overall, it was concluded that boiled or baked potatoes can help reduce systolic blood pressure – and baked French fries have no adverse effects on blood pressure and can be included as part of an overall healthy diet.
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