The news that fried food may lead to an early death is at once unsurprising and yet still heartbreaking.
“The frequent consumption of fried potatoes appears to be associated with an increased mortality risk,” concludes lead author Dr. Nicola Veronese, a scientist at the National Research Council in Padova, Italy.
Originally studying osteoarthritis, the 8-year longitudinal study was tracking 4449 participants aged 49 to 75. Researchers were noticing a pattern in potato consumption, so divided participants into categories based on how they ate potatoes. Over the 8 year period, 236 participants died. After analyzing the data for these participants, researchers found they had a habit of eating fried potato at least two or three times a week (and sometimes more).
Fried potato, in this case, includes French fries, hash browns, potato chips, or any other kind of fried potato in oil. Eating non-fried potatoes, such as boiled or roasted potato, did not affect mortality.
Age and sex of the participant did not affect results, however, researchers noted that men were significantly more likely to consume fried potato, and younger participants were also more likely.
In an email to CNN, Dr. Veronese is quick to point out that this was an observational study only, meaning that while the study has found a link between the consumption of fried potato and early mortality, it hasn’t determined the precise relationship of that link. It is known that fried potato has a greater quantity of trans fats, a type of fat linked to cardiovascular disease, but it could also be that people who eat fried potato are more likely to already be obese or have other health complications, leading to a chicken vs. egg problem.
The National Potato Council found that in 2014 Americans consumed 112.1 pounds per person. Of that amount, the majority were French fries.