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Potatoes linked to lower blood pressure

6th September 2011

Potatoes have long been given a bad press for their role in weight gain and heart disease in the guise of chips and crisps, but researchers in the United States say properly cooked purple potatoes can lower blood pressure.

bloodpressure

According to a research team in Pennsylvania, a couple of servings of potatoes daily can have as beneficial an effect on blood pressure as oatmeal.

Eaten with such frequency, in those quantities, the potatoes will not make you put on weight, they found.

The newly available purple pigmented potatoes were shown to have the effect, and the University of Scranton scientists said it was important to eat the skins.

A micro-study of 18 patients who ate 6-8 small purple potatoes daily for a month recorded falls of 3.5% and 4.3% in their systolic and diastolic blood pressures, respectively.

The patients studied by researcher and chemistry professor Joe Vinson were mostly obese or overwieght, with many already on medication for hypertension.

The research, funded by the US Department of Agriculture, was due to be presented at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Denver, Colorado, this week.

But some experts have warned that the results are only preliminary, and have so far not been subjected to peer review.

According to Vinson, the purple potatoes, skins and all, can be a healthy food if they're not cut into chips or crisps and deep-fried.

Minus the cheese and sour-cream topping, purple potatoes in particular have high levels of antioxidants, he said, adding that red-skinned or white potatoes could also have similar effects.

Vinson recommended microwaving small potatoes the size of golf balls, because the cooking process neither adds fat nor destroys key compounds beneficial to human health.

Vinson said potatoes have typically had a poor reputation among nutrition experts, and were all too frequently written off as empty calories and nothing but starch.

But he said the potato effect was still measurable even in patients who were already taking blood pressure medication.

American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Lona Sandon said the results came as no surprise to her, however.

Sandon said potatoes are a very good source of potassium, which is known to help control blood pressure.

Sandon, who is also an assistant professor of nutrition at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, said the tubers were a fairly healthy staple food when not deep fried.

She said they were a fairly low-fat, low-calorie food choice, with plenty of vitamins in the skin, which it was important to eat along with the rest of the potato.

The skin of purple potatoes in particular possibly contained more antioxidants than the skin of white potatoes.

However, she said more information was needed before firm conclusions could be drawn.

Supermarkets and general food stores have begun to stock purple potatoes in recent years.


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