Can eating potatoes increase the risk of type two diabetes?

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A research team, from Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia, analysed the diets of 54,000 people who took part in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health study. The results were published in the journal Diabetes Care, which revealed whether potatoes could be increasing the risk of high blood sugar levels. Researcher Pratik Pokharel, who is a PhD student, explained: “In previous studies, potatoes have been positively linked to incidence of diabetes, regardless of how they’re prepared — but we found that’s not true.

“In our study, we could distinguish between the different preparation methods.

“When we separated boiled potatoes from mashed potatoes, fries or crisps, boiled potatoes were no longer associated with a higher risk of diabetes: they had a null effect.”

Signs of type 2 diabetes

When blood sugar levels are elevated, the first warning signs of type 2 diabetes, according to the NHS, can include:

  • Peeing more than usual, particularly at night
  • Feeling thirsty all the time
  • Feeling very tired
  • Losing weight without trying to
  • Itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
  • Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
  • Blurred vision.

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Pokharel continued: “In our study, people who ate the most potatoes also consumed more butter, red meat and soft drink — foods known to increase your risk of type two diabetes.

“When you account for that, boiled potatoes are no longer associated with diabetes.

“It’s only fries and mashed potatoes; the latter likely because it is usually made with butter, cream and the like.”

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes

The leading charity Diabetes UK points out risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes.

In addition to an unhealthy diet, risk factors can include:

  • Being over the age of 40
  • A close relative, such as sibling or parent, has type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity.

While mashed and fried potatoes aren’t the healthiest of foods, boiled potatoes are considered “good quality” carbohydrates that are best enjoyed alongside greens.

According to the researchers, leafy greens and cruciferous veggies – such as spinach, lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower – can slash type 2 diabetes risk.

Pokharel added: “The finding that vegetables lower diabetes risk is crucial for public health recommendations, and we shouldn’t ignore it.

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“Regarding potatoes, we can’t say they have a benefit in terms of type two diabetes, but they also aren’t bad if prepared in a healthy way.”

In order to minimise your risk of type 2 diabetes, it seems eating any type of potatoe is not the way to do it.

Reducing your blood sugar does, however, require eating a healthy diet, full of vegetables, frequent exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight.

The NHS recommends people to engage in 150 minutes of movement each week, which could include walking, swimming, or cycling.

Without committing to a healthy lifestyle, the health body cautions that developing type 2 diabetes puts you at greater risk of stroke and heart attacks.

Not only that, there can be severe complications of extremely high blood sugar.

One such complication is nerve damage which, if left untreated, could result in gangrene.

“Gangrene is a serious condition where a loss of blood supply causes body tissue to die,” the NHS adds.

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