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Nutrition Study May Give Potato New Respect

Pullman, Wash. — The potato, avoided by some Americans for its high carbohydrate content, may be healthier than we give it credit. A new study at Washington State University is examining some of its nutritional benefits.

Brightly colored potatoes,such as purple, red and yellow, contain higher levels of antioxidants compared with white potatoes, according to Boon Chew, WSU professor of nutritional immunology. Antioxidants help to prevent diseases by improving the human immune system.

“We want to be able to have our pie and eat it too so to speak,” Chew said,referring to being able to eat potatoes at the same time as improving health.

The study,which will begin within the next two to three weeks, will involve feeding participants different recipes made with different colored potatoes once a day for six weeks straight. The participants will then be tested for the strength of their immune systems, anti-inflammatory response and antioxidant levels.

Chewand Jean Soon Park, WSU assistant research professor, will compare the health-related benefits of white, yellow and purple potatoes. They are working with Chuck Brown and Roy Navarre, USDA Agricultural Research Service plant geneticists, at the WSU Prosser Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center, to identify potato varieties that have the highest antioxidant content. Brown is growing the potatoes for the feeding study.

Kerrie Kaspar, a doctoral student working on the project, said the potatoes will be prepared in different kinds of recipes to make sure the participants do not get tired of eating the same thing. Kaspar said they will prepare recipes like traditional mashed potatoes and au gratin.

The study group consists of non-smoking males, ages 18 to 40. According to Chew, it would be easier to recruit this type of group in Pullman’s college atmosphere. He said women would not be as easy to recruit to eat potatoes once a day compared to men because of the fear of putting on weight. Each participant will receive a $100 at the end of the study.

The specific age group of non-smokers was chosen because all of the participants had to be consistent in order for the study to finish with consistent results.

The study has already recruited 40 participants, which is well over the number needed to show a statistical difference. Chew said the more participants the better so they are prepared for people who dropout in the middle of the study.

The study is one of three being funded by a three-year $114,000 grant from the Washington State Potato Commission.

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