French fries are incredibly delicious, but they might also be shortening our lifespans — at least according to a study published in June in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The study, which looked at 4,440 people ages 45 to 79 over a period of eight years, found that higher consumption of fried potatoes was associated with an increased risk of early death. People who ate fried potatoes two to three times a week were twice as likely to die prematurely than their counterparts who ate no fried potatoes at all, CNN reported.
The danger isn't just french fries. Chips, hash browns and other potatoes cooked in a deep-fryer counted in the study, lead author Nicola Veronese of the National Research Council in Padova, Italy, told CNN.
That could spell bad news for Americans. A third of all vegetables consumed by Americans are potatoes, and roughly 70% of potatoes consumed in the U.S. are frozen or processed, the Washington Post reported in 2015, citing data from the USDA.
Are all potatoes bad?
As far as this study is concerned, baked potato lovers needn't fear. The study found eating non-fried potatoes wasn't associated with an increased risk of death, CNN reported.
The study was just observational, so it doesn't definitively prove eating fried potatoes leads to premature death — just that the two are associated. Veronese told CNN additional research is necessary to establish a more definite conclusion. But, he said, it's possible that the cooking oil is to blame.
"Even if it is an observational study, we believe that the cooking oil, rich in trans-fat, is an important factor in explaining mortality in those eating more potatoes," Veronese said.
That theory shouldn't come as a complete shock. Past research has shown people who eat a lot of fried foods are at higher risk for both type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In 2007, New York City took the step of restricting restaurants' use of trans fats for cooking in an attempt to reduce public consumption of the fats.
Veronese told CNN his research establishes that fried potatoes "could be an important risk factor for mortality ... Thus, their consumption should be strongly limited."