Popular food packs on pounds and increases diabetes risk

risk factors for diabetesThere’s a new health enemy #1. It’s not new to you and me, but to the mainstream, it’s absolutely shocking.

It’s not sugar, it’s not cholesterol and it’s not even saturated fat.

No…this enemy is actually an old friend. Heck, it’s one we always invited to Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m talking about the simple potato.

And simple is definitely the operative word here — and also what makes it so dangerous.

Welcome to the party

A potato is a root, but it still qualifies as a vegetable. And you buy potatoes in the vegetable section of your supermarket, right? And vegetables are good for you, right? So eat up!

I’m guessing that’s the way most people think of potatoes. But that logic has one detail wrong: Potatoes are not good for you.

Yes, potatoes have nutritious components, such as B vitamins, vitamin C, and some excellent minerals. But all those good things can’t save it from being a starch bomb that hits your system like a bag of candy.

As Dr. Spreen explains, a baked potato is as close to a pure, refined starch as you can get without actually refining it.

Dr. Spreen: “As soon as a starch hits enzymes in your mouth, the starches begin the digestion process, and breaks down to (you guessed it) sugar. As soon as the starch breaks down to sugar, you’re back to a refined simple carb.”

And those refined simple carbs are the ones that increase abdominal fat, promote weight gain, and help set the stage for type 2 diabetes.

This is what Dr. Spreen and I have been telling you about potatoes for years. And now, with a Harvard study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the mainstream has finally caught up.

Welcome to Nutrition 101, mainstream! We were expecting you years ago, but you finally made it, that’s the important thing.

The Harvard team examined general health data collected from more than 120,000 healthy adults who were not obese at the beginning of the study. Follow up periods ranged from 12 to 20 years.

Here are the top three food items that caused yearly weight-gain spikes, significantly above the national average:

  • Potato chips
  • Potatoes (any type of serving)
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages

So if you’re struggling to manage your proper weight, a serving of potatoes is actually WORSE for you than a 12-ounce Coke!

Spud love

Unfortunately, this is just the start of mainstream potato awareness. I doubt we’ll see the mainstream make a full conversion away from potatoes for many years.

Here’s why: The American Heart Association considers potatoes “heart healthy.” The United Nations declared 2008 the Year of the Potato. And on the American Diabetes Association website, a recipe for mashed potatoes calls for two cups of peeled potatoes.

Yikes! The skin is where most of the nutrients are! Take away the skin and you’re just shoveling sugar in your mouth.

Instead of sharing a wide variety of potato recipes, the ADA should be warning website visitors that potatoes prompt blood sugar spikes causing overproduction of insulin, which leads to pancreas stress and type 2 diabetes.

Hopefully that day will come. Until then, warn your spud-loving friends and family to go easy on the potatoes — or better yet, go without.


Related articles of interest:

3 Foods You Should Never Eat

Enlist Your Hormones in the Battle for Weight Loss

Keeping you safe from walnuts


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Jenny Thompson

Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.

Visit www.hsionline.com to sign up for the free HSI e-Alert.

Please let us know what you think about this article. All comments will be moderated before being posted publicly.


  1. Lori says

    Sorry, junk science in my opinion. Neither purple potatoes nor red potatoes are junk food and comparing them to coke is ridiculous. I’m not talking about french fries, home fries, or whatever. Adding a few whole, real potatoes as part of a whole foods diet will not cause weight gain or diabetes. Let’s get real here.

  2. Anonymous says

    This article is so stupid that I couldn’t finish reading it. If potatoes were so bad for humans to consume, if they really “packed on pounds” and caused diabetes, then this would have been evident centuries ago. Obesity and diabetes are a modern problem because we eat too much, eat too much processed food, and get too little exercise. Our drive-through lifestyle is the reason that America is turning into a nation of fat diabetics, not potatoes.

  3. Anonymous says

    Saying a serving of potatoes is worse than a can of Coke is so misleading!!

    I am not even sure that comment would apply to french fries and potato chips, either, not that they are health foods.

    Coke has NO nutrients. A fresh potato does, especially the skin.

    Let’t not exagerate the facts, please. I’ll bet most people reading your comments know better as well.

    Keep consumption moderate and notice how your body reacts.

  4. Anonymous says

    Baloney. If the potato was not meant to be eaten, why would God create it with B vitamins and other nutrients? Read how the Irish potato famine caused the death of nearly 1/3 of their population. It is all about moderation and preparation.

  5. Anonymous says

    What about organic sweet potatoes or yams? Can these type of potatoes be eaten in moderation and not have an effect upon your weight? I also read from various sources that by adding a small amount of organic butter to a carb food, the rate of carbohydrate absorption slows down or in other words, the application of a fat or even a protein added to a carb will effectively lower the overall glycemic load of that food as well due to the hypothesis that the carbs compete with the fat and even protein for absorption uptake into the blood stream.

  6. Anonymous says

    Plain old russet potatoes are high glycemic, thus the problem. Sweet potatoes are less of a problem, interestingly. However, if you look at the vast amount of potatoes consumed…super sized fries, hash browns, chips …. then you can see that this could be a problem. Having a periodic baked potato isn’t going to be the end of the world, obviously. Unfortunately, in our society we eat large quantities of high glycemic foods, not to mention the rest of the junk agribusiness tries to pass off as food. It is no wonder we are obese and sick.

  7. Anonymous says

    According to the author, “A potato is a root, but it still qualifies as a vegetable.” First off, potatoes are tubers, not roots. Carrots are roots, and so are parsnips, beets, and turnips, all of which are vegetables. Since when are roots questionable vegetables?
    And potatoes cooked without their skin are hardly devoid of nutrients as claimed in this article. Read here for what is in large potato boiled without its skin:
    Potatoes, whether raw, boiled, or baked, are not unhealthy by any means. It is true that potatoes aren’t healthy when processed, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. This article was poorly researched, if it was at all, and blaming common vegetable for weight gain and diabetes is simply irresponsible.

  8. Anonymous says

    It is indeed very disturbing to read such an article authored by such a person as Jenny Thompson and adding to the mess was Dr Alan Spreen both of HSI . I for one have been reading and listening to HSI for years and am quite set back now after reading this. I agree the research seems flawed.

  9. Tom CHHC says

    I think the article is very good. The glycemic index of potatoes is higher than that of table sugar, for pity’s sake!

  10. Anonymous says

    I think you have to read these articles critically and not just accept them without question because they are accompanied by some statistics. Potatoes were domesticated 10,000 years ago in Peru and caused no dietary problems until the last century. Is the problem really potatoes or are there other places to place the blame, like a sedentary lifestyle and poor food choices? When you see whole foods like vegetables, raw milk, and unrefined grains being attributed to modern day health problems just Google the food in question and see when it was domesticated or adopted into our diet and decide for yourself if it is truly unhealthy after so many centuries or usually millenia. And remember that it wasn’t too long ago that scientists had ‘proved’ that eggs were unhealthy and so was the coconut oil used to pop theater popcorn but this was later debunked. Stop eating processed foods and get more exercise, but don’t stop eating your vegetables.

  11. Lori says

    Tom – It’s not all about glycemic index but, more importantly, glycemic load. I still think that “colored” potatoes are healthy options in a whole foods diet.

  12. Anonymous says

    I am puzzled, I can understand bleached flour and its consequences, I understand a baked non organic potato loaded with margarine but a potato being compared to a sugary drink, I am sorry I do not see the logic, I can understand potatoes being killed as in French fries fried with these unhealthy oils, potato chips etc these I can understand being unhealthy, in a way I am very disappointed about this article and the people involved, now there is also concern about 100% orange juice and I am not talking about any commercially type ????. JAM

  13. Anthony says

    I think everyone has a different body mechanism to break down the potatoe starches, it’s hard to grasp this findings. My family lives on Okinawan sweet-potatoe, I’ve been eating sweet potatoes as far as I can remember, and I’m happy to say, none of my immediate family members has any type of diabetes.

  14. Anonymous says

    The real truth here is that potatoes are bad in terms of weight gain because they digest easily – blood sugar levels soar sky high and insulin then stores the excess sugar levels as fat. However, one normally eats other foods with potatoes such as meat which slows down the digestion process. Glycemic index is the key. Fast digesting carbs (junk sugars, candy, cake, soda, table sugar etc) are worse when eaten when you’re hungry. They’re minor if eaten as a dessert because it gets mixed into the pile of mush already in your stomach. Think of it as sugar in, sugar stored and sugar out. Storage goes high when food digest too fast. If storage goes too high it gets moved to body fat. If storage goes low, body fat gets converted to sugar (glucose). Simple :)

    I deal with hypoglycemia and need to eat LOTS of complex carbs (slow digest carbs – protein helps and eat about 6 mini meals a day.. same calories, just break it up to 6 meals.

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