It’s not the economy, stupid. It’s the chips.










A new study, conducted by Harvard University scientists and published in this month’s New England Journal of Medicine, says that potato chips are making us fat.
Uhhh…. really?

Of course we already know potato chip are bad for us. We just didn’t know how bad.
120,877 test subjects were followed over 20 years in what’s hailed by the scientific community as the most comprehensive look ever at the effects of food and lifestyle choices. There was an average weight gain of 17 pounds over the 20 year span, and on average, 7 of those pounds came from potato chips.

We know they’re bad for us, but we can’t help ourselves. Potato chips are America’s hands-down favorite snack, holding down the number-one spot for more than 50 years, despite the ever-expanding body of nutritional wisdom.  Maybe we really can’t help ourselves.

Feeling stressed? It’s possible that a chips binge will make you feel better. Eating potato chips can light up the dopamine reward pathways in the brain in the same way as cocaine. Gorging on chips can also cause a metabolic change that suppresses the release of stress hormones. Unloved? When it comes to monkeys and banana chips, the lower-status monkeys will keep stuffing themselves to feel better. Sound familiar?

Looking at each four-year segment of the study, potato chips contributed 1.69 of the nearly four-pound weight gain; more than sweets, soda, and even french fries (all other potatoes, combined, added another 1.28 pounds). The other culprits:

  • soda was good for a pound every four years
  • an alcoholic drink a day added 0.41 pounds
  • an hour of TV viewing each day added 0.31 pounds
  • quitting smoking added five pounds
  • meat added a 0.95-pound uptick in weight, and processed meats (yes you, bacon) were right behind at 0.93 pounds

Test subjects who consistently slept less than 6 or more than 8 hours each night gained even more, as did heavy TV viewers. Regular exercise knocked off 2 pounds per four-year segment.

The individuals followed in the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, were all health professionals—in other words, people who should know better. One can only imagine how the rest of us would have fared.

You can read the complete study, Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men, in the June 23 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.



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