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Potatoes May Be Good for the Heart After All, Study Says
Date:9/1/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- French fries and potato chips may have given potatoes a bad rap, but new research finds the lowly tuber -- when cooked correctly -- may actually be good for the heart.

A small, pilot study suggests that a couple of servings of potatoes per day can lower blood pressure as much as oatmeal without causing weight gain, researchers said.

Joe Vinson, a professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, analyzed 18 patients who ate six to eight small purple potatoes twice daily for a month and found their systolic and diastolic blood pressures (the top and bottom numbers on a blood pressure reading) dropped by 3.5 and 4.3 percent, respectively.

Most patients were either overweight or obese, and many were already taking medications for high blood pressure during the study, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was to be presented Wednesday at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Denver. Experts note that research presented at scientific meetings is preliminary and has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Vinson pointed out that potatoes can be a healthy food when they're not in the form of French fries or chips, or covered in high-fat toppings such as cheese and sour cream.

Purple ones, in particular, have high amounts of antioxidants, although red-skinned or white potatoes may have similar effects, he said.

The golf ball-sized potatoes used in the study were microwaved, which Vinson called a "benign" cooking method that doesn't add fat or calories or destroy healthy substances in potatoes.

"Everyone thought potatoes were just a starch and pretty much nothing else," said Vinson, explaining spuds' poor nutritional reputation. "I was surprised . . . a very large proportion (of participants) were taking medications and still we had a drop in blood pressure."

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