Can We Eat Potatoes During Pregnancy?

Last Editorial Review: 6/16/2017

Ask the experts

Will eating French fries during my pregnancy increase my chance, or my baby's chance, of an early death?

Doctor’s response

Eating French fries during your pregnancy may or may not increase your chance of an earlier death if you eat them two or three times per week. The level of harm if you did so only during pregnancy is unclear from existing data, however. There is no data on your baby's chance of an earlier death if you eat french fries two or three times a week during pregnancy.

Researchers conducted a study over eight years of two groups based on how frequently people ate potatoes each week. Over the eight years, a total of 236 people died and the data from each group suggested that those who ate French fried potatoes two to three times per week had twice the chance of dying early as compared to those who did not eat fried potatoes. Unfortunately, the researcher's didn't break down the group into pregnant and/or non-pregnant individuals. The study contains little or no data on pregnancy, the fetus and fried potatoes.

Even the researchers who did the study suggest they cannot say that eating fried potatoes directly causes early mortality because they did not include other factors such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and use of  dietary salt. Although the authors speculate the trans fat-rich cooking oil for French fries might explain the mortality data because trans fat raises bad cholesterol in the blood, they did not measure this. In addition, the study provided no evidence that potato consumption (excluding fried potatoes) increased the risk of early death. Another researcher has suggested that when starchy foods like potatoes are fried, acrylamide is produced; it is a known toxin to humans and a potential cause of cancer.

So if you want to be on the safe side of dietary intake, eating French fried potatoes (including potato chips, hash browns or any deep fried potato compounds) should be reduced to fewer than twice per week to avoid potential risk of increased mortality for everyone, including pregnant women and their babies, according to this new study. This diet change should also help avoid exposure to high levels of acrylamide.

Other studies need to be done to confirm whether this diet change in pregnancy is of benefit to you.

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Veronese, N., Stubbs, B., Noal, M., et al.
Fried potato consumption is associated with elevated mortality: an eight year longitudinal cohort study
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 105 (6), 2017

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Frequent fried potato consumption may be harmful