The humble potato is in the spotlight at the University of Scranton. A professor there decided to study a certain kind of potato, to see if it deserves the reputation it gets for spiking blood sugar and causing weight gain. The study is now gaining national attention.
Dr. Joe Vinson has been studying antioxidants for years, and recently turned his attention to the potato after reading a study in a medical journal about their so-called "evils."
"This article said that potatoes were the worst vegetables you could eat because they caused the most weight gain," Dr. Vinson said.
He applied for and got money from the USDA to do a study of his own on red- and purple-fleshed potatoes. Dr. Vinson says they contain more antioxidants than the white-fleshed varieties.
Dr. Vinson found eighteen people who were both overweight and had high blood pressure, many of whom were on medication. For two months, he monitored as one group ate purple potatoes everyday, prepared any way they liked, while the other group ate no potatoes at all. His result? No weight gain for the potato-eaters and a decrease in blood pressure, regardless of whether the subject was taking high-blood pressure medication.
"And that was even though they ate the equivalent of two medium potatoes a day. That's a lot! I'd say that's about 220 calories in their diet," said Dr. Vinson. "If you don't eat fried potatoes or potato chips, you don't have to worry about potatoes and weight gain."
Dr. Vinson's findings got the attention of the American Chemical Society. He recently spoke at a meeting of the group in Denver and will soon publish a paper in its journal. Not surprisingly, he says the US Potato Board is also interested in what he found. Dr. Vinson tells Newswatch 16 he won't rule out a similar study in the future on white potatoes.