The Surprising Health Perks of Potatoes

Did you know that eating certain types of spuds may help reduce inflammation?

colorful potatoes in burlap bag on wood table

Medically reviewed in August 2022

Updated on September 14, 2022

Potatoes sometimes get a bad health rap. But research shows that certain types of potatoes may help reduce inflammation that can set the stage for disease.

Specifically, researchers sing the praises of potatoes with yellow or purple flesh—like Yukon Gold or Purple Peruvian potatoes. One study published in 2020 in Food Chemistry suggested eating purple potatoes was linked to lower inflammation, improved blood sugar, and better insulin levels. Another small 2011 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found lower levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) in men who ate a cup of yellow or purple potatoes every day for six weeks. IL-6 is a compound that promotes inflammation.

Inflammation overload
Inflammatory cycles go something like this: First, free radicals in your body—generated by stress, illness, pollutants, and normal everyday body processes—start to damage cells and tissues. In response, your body releases IL-6 to help corral and neutralize some of those free radicals. But chronically high levels of IL-6 can increase your risk of inflammation-related diseases, including heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 2 diabetes.
 
Enter potatoes. 

Yellow and purple potatoes are high in antioxidants such as phenols, carotenoids, and anthocyanins. Research suggests these antioxidants may help fight inflammation and reduce the risk of inflammation-related conditions. 

Top tater
Purple-fleshed potatoes seem to give the most benefit. In the 2011 study, adult men up to age 40 ate one cup of white, yellow, or purple potatoes every day for six weeks. The men who ate yellow potatoes had lower levels of IL-6 compared with the men who ate white potatoes. They also exhibited less DNA damage. Purple-potato eaters saw the same benefits when compared with white-potato eaters. 

But purple-potato eaters had the added benefit of lower levels of a different inflammatory marker, C-reactive protein, also known as CRP. Researchers suspect the rich pigments in colored potatoes help protect cells, tissue, and DNA from the free radical injuries that initiate inflammation. 

The bottom line: Consider giving potatoes, particularly yellow and purple varieties, a place on your menu. Their anti-inflammatory properties may provide a boost to an overall healthy eating plan.

Article sources open article sources

Burmester GR. Interleukin 6 inhibitors: Biology, principles of use, and adverse effects. UpToDate. Page last reviewed May 02, 2022.
Jokioja J, Yang B, et al. Acylated anthocyanins: A review on their bioavailability and effects on postprandial carbohydrate metabolism and inflammation. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2021;20(6):5570-5615.
Kaspar KL, Park JS, et al. Pigmented Potato Consumption Alters Oxidative Stress and Inflammatory Damage in Men. The Journal of Nutrition. 2011;141:108-111.
Ridker PM, Rane M. Interleukin-6 Signaling and Anti-Interleukin-6 Therapeutics in Cardiovascular Disease. Circulation Research. 2021;128:1728-1746.
Strand V, Boklage SH, et al. High levels of interleukin-6 in patients with rheumatoid arthritis are associated with greater improvements in health-related quality of life for sarilumab compared with adalimumab. Arthritis Res Ther. 2020;22.
Jokioja J, Linderborg KM, et al. Anthocyanin-rich extract from purple potatoes decreases postprandial glycemic response and affects inflammation markers in healthy men. Food Chem. 2020 Apr 25;310:125797.

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