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Potatos: The Cause of Gradual Weight Gain?

potato sack1“It’s 80% food and 20% exercise”, sound familiar? If so, you probably heard it from H3’s fitness director, Adam Martin, as he explains the impact of caloric intake vs. caloric expenditure on weight management during the Planning Your H3 Fitness Experience seminar. A study by Harvard researchers, published in today’s New England Journal of Medicine, confirms what Adam has been saying for years.

 The researchers tracked the diet and exercise habits of 120,000 health care professionals for at least 12 years. On average the participants in the study gained almost a pound a year. While that may not sound like very much, after several years it starts to add up. Dr. Frank Hu, one of the researchers, said,

“There is no magic bullet for weight control, diet and exercise are important for preventing weight gain, but diet clearly plays a bigger role”.

While some of the usual suspects including daily consumption of soft drinks, red and processed meats, and alcohol, contributed to the weight gain, the main culprit was potatoes.   Not surprisingly, french fries and potato chips had the biggest impact, but the daily consumption of any type of potatoes even boiled or baked was associated with weight gain. This does not mean that you should eliminate baked potatoes from your diet. In fact, a plain baked potato is an excellent source of potassium and a good source of vitamin c, and the b vitamins. It does suggest, however, that potatoes, even baked, should not be the daily staple they are in many American households. Some foods when consumed regularly (i.e. fruits and vegetables, nuts and yogurt) seemed to help people manage their weight.

This new study of course in no way minimizes the importance of regular exercise. I still believe it is the foundation of good health and a high quality of life now, and as we age. It does mean that when it comes to weight management though, it is not enough. There are not enough hours in the day to burn off the calories we are over consuming. We must address this on the input side of the equation.

For specific tips on managing portions effectively, check out the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink.

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