Potato chips - The evil lurking within those shiny bags

By: Health Local Staff Nov 07, 2011
Potato chips

According to the New England Journal of Medicine the number one cause of obesity in the United States is the potato chip.

Most potato chip commercials show happy, vibrant people consuming their products. They also have some sort of tag line alluding to the fact that you WILL eat more than one of their chips, almost daring you to only eat one. It would be far better for your health if you didn’t eat any at all. The United States is facing an alarming rate of obesity. Over 1/3 of adults and roughly 17% of children under 19 are obese. As of 2010, there was not a single state with a rate of adult obesity under 20%. Those numbers are absolutely astounding and a direct result of how we eat.

Over the Long Haul
A study done over 20 years recorded the eating habits and subsequent weight changes of test subjects every 4 years. The news for potatoes was not good. While they do contain several nutrients our bodies need such as iron, magnesium and phosphorous, a large baked potato is roughly 280 calories, which does not include any toppings. Not many people eat a plain baked potato. It’s usually piled with butter, bacon bits, sour cream, processed cheese, etc. The study found that subjects who consumed potatoes reported a gain of 1.28 lbs, while the ones who ate potato chips averaged a gain of 1.69 lbs within that 4 years. To provide a rather startling comparison, subjects who drank sugar-sweetened beverages (such as soda) reported a gain of 1.0 lbs, which is less than even regular potatoes. In contrast, subjects who ate vegetables, fruits, yogurt, nuts and whole grains reported weight loss.

Why They’re SO Bad
If you were to ask the average person how many potato chips constitute a serving, not many would know the “correct” answer. Many would say, “a bowl” or even “a bag” depending upon the kind of day or week they’ve had. An actual serving size is an ounce, or roughly 15 chips, which is about 160 calories, depending on the variety of potato chip.

Being that potatoes are starch, they allow our bodies to quickly change that starch to sugar, causing our pancreas to go into overdrive to regulate that influx of sugar. Once sugar levels regulate and lower, we are hungry again and some people even reach for that same bag of chips. This type of cycle can lead to Type II Diabetes and definitely leads to weight gain with a potential for obesity.

Warning Labels?
Cigarette companies are required to have appropriate labels in their packaging to advise potential consumers of any dangers they may face. With potato chips being such a strong leader in the obesity epidemic, warning labels on snack packaging could possibly follow. If people were truly aware of the dangers, they might not be so easily taken in by the seductive, salty crunch of the potato chip.

The Health Local Staff is a team of writers and experts dedicated to bringing you the latest health, nutrition and lifestyle information at www.healthlocal.ca.