Potato Chips Linked with Long-Term Weight Gain

potato chips gain weightThe findings of an intriguing 3 part study, conducted by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), were published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study examined how changes in dietary and other lifestyle factors relate to long-term weight gain.  120,877 healthy women and men in the United States were studied. They were free of any chronic health conditions and were not categorized as obese at the beginning of the study. The study consisted of follow-up periods from 1986 to 2006 and 1991 to 2003.

The participants gained an average of 3.35 pounds during each four-year period, which amounted to a weight gain of 16.8 pounds over the 20-year period. The study found that the food linked with the highest weight gain over the 20-year period was potato chips, with +1.69 pound more weight gain every 4 years with each increased daily serving. Other dietary culprits included other types of potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, unprocessed meats and processed meats. Several foods were associated with less weight gain when their consumption was actually increased, including vegetables (−0.22 lb), whole grains (−0.37 lb), fruits (−0.49 lb), nuts (−0.57 lb) and yogurt (−0.82 lb).

Based on the study, the most practical dietary guideline for preventing long-term weight gain appears to be focusing on improving carbohydrate quality by drinking less sugary beverages, eating less sweets, as well as fewer starches like potatoes, and refined grains such as white bread, white rice, and low fiber breakfast cereals. Instead, the focus should be on eating more foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and yogurt.

As for lifestyle factors, the findings indicated that changes in physical activity and TV-viewing influenced changes in weight and participants who slept 6-8 hours a night gained less weight than those who slept less than 6 or more than 8 hours.

Dr. Mark Fusco in Florida explained, “Although at face value the results of this research seem intuitively obvious, the study highlights the impact of practical behavioral and dietary changes on the weight of our patients. It should remind us, as weight loss surgeons, that reinforcing positive behaviors is important for the long term success of our patients.”

You can view the study findings in the New England Journal of Medicine  here.


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