Dr. Michael Gregor made a video recently about potatoes increasing the risk of diabetes. In the study he reviewed, fruit didn’t increase the risk of diabetes, but potatoes did, a little. And that was true even when they looked at just boiled or baked potatoes and not French fries.

However, we need to look at the circumstances. People will eat fresh fruits all by themselves, but hardly anybody eats plain potatoes. Almost everyone dresses their potatoes with something, usually with butter, sour cream, grated cheese, bacon bits or rich gravies.  And that’s what is affecting them- not just the potato. And, potatoes are eaten as part of a meal, and what do people eat with potatoes? Most commonly meat, as in meat and potatoes. So, is it right to blame the potato for the whole meal?

I didn’t examine that study, but it was epidemiological, meaning that it wasn’t a controlled setting where they were feeding people and controlling what they ate.  And if they limited it to people who were eating plain potatoes and not eating them with anything else that could affect their diabetes risk, that would rule out practically everyone. They’d have no one to study.

So, Dr. Gregor, you need to learn to be more circumspect about these studies. In this case, we are talking about a potato, which is 80% water and very high in fiber and practically devoid of fat. Its also low in calories with a medium size potato having about 85 calories.

So, how could that food increase diabetes risk? We are talking about mature-onset diabetes, which is all about excess calories and excess body fat. The cells become resistant to insulin because they are already stuffed with calories (fat) and they don’t want any more. Plain potatoes do NOT make people fat. Every time a person has gone on a sole diet of potatoes, they have lost weight, including body fat.

Much is made of the glycemic index, and potatoes are reportedly high. Reportedly, potatoes digest and absorb more rapidly than fruits, and hence, they can spike your blood sugar more than fruit. That’s what we’re told.  But, for whom is this relevant? If a person is diabetic, I can see how it’s relevant. But, that doesn’t mean that potatoes cause diabetes. Potatoes are a whole, natural, unrefined plant food that contain a broad array of nutrients. You couldn’t live on them exclusively forever, but you could live on them for a long time. I always buy the gold potatoes because they contain a lot of lutein which is so important for your eyes and also your arteries. I never buy the white russet potatoes that are so starchy. 

But, the “glycemic index” issue is a red herring because, again, people don’t eat potatoes alone. They eat them with other foods, and it all gets mixed up in your stomach, and it’s the glycemic index of the whole mix that matters.

I’ve never done a glucose tolerance test on myself, where you take the fasting blood sugar, and then eat a full meal and see how high the blood sugar goes. They used to do it with special sugar drinks, but I think it would be more valuable to do it by having the person eat a typical meal for them. That’s how I would do it.

So, would a meal of mine that included potatoes cause more of a glucose spike than other meals? And keep in mind that it’s bound to spike some. But, if the person is healthy, it won’t spike as high and it won’t last as long.

But, if you don’t have excess body fat, and if your muscles are well toned, and you are used to doing vigorous physical activity, then that glucose is going to be funneled into the muscles for storage as glycogen so fast, that your blood sugar is going to come back down quickly.

It comes down to the basic concept of “homeostasis” and if you are healthy, your homeostatic mechanisms are well-honed, and you’ve got nothing to worry about from eating potatoes. And again, it’s the volume of sugar that matters, and at less than 100 calories each, how taxing can potatoes be?

Dr. Gregor came up with a gimmick that if you cook your potatoes and then chill them, that the cold raises the level of resistant starch in the potatoes, and hence, you won’t absorb as much of the carbs. But, I am not the least bit interested in doing that. To me, that is just paranoia. I eat my gold potatoes, and I usually mix avocado with them, which is very delicious. I don’t think there is anything unhealthy about it- not for me. And I am not going to practice a gimmick to fix a non-problem. This time, Dr. Gregor is being obsessively obsessive. You need to chill, brother.