Purdue University nutrition researcher Berdine Martin sees potential for potassium to be the next "really hot" nutrient emphasized in food science.
That would be good news for potato farmers, who produce a crop high in both vitamin C and potassium. Martin is assisting in potato research that she believes will provide the first data on the health benefits of potassium derived from a food source, rather than a vitamin supplement.
The study, led by her department head Connie Weaver, is funded by the Alliance for Potato Research and Education, which promotes research on the health benefits of potatoes and french fries.
Martin argues research has largely neglected potassium, known to lower hypertension and improve heart health.
"The potential for potassium is huge in terms of blood pressure," Martin said.
When consumed in food, she expects the study will show potassium is more fully absorbed and lasts longer in the system, as it's slower to digest than supplements.
Purdue is now selecting 30 participants for nine six-day dietary trials. Health comparisons will be made between participants fed potatoes and those who take dietary supplements with varying amounts of potassium, including a placebo. Martin said it is pilot research and hopes the initial findings will lead to future grants.
APRE is funding a second study led by University of Toronto nutrition sciences professor Harvey Anderson, looking at the degree that potatoes satiate children of normal weight. APRE CEO Maureen Storey did not divulge how much her organization has paid for the studies.
SOURCE: John O'Connell, Capital Press