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Today, a wide array of health problems facing Americans of all ages can be attributed to poor diet choices, specifically the increased consumption of fast food products. Such products include sugary beverages, pizzas, burgers, and of course, the infamous french fries.

Their crispy, golden exteriors, surrounding an inside of pure deliciousness, make french fries the favorite guilty pleasure of both youth and adults. However, despite their popularity and undeniable tastiness, french fries have made the lists of several physicians’ “Top 10 Most Unhealthy Foods.”

It’s no secret that obesity is one of the biggest problems facing people of all ages in the United States today. Over consumption of greasy, fatty foods have contributed to a spike in the number of reported cases of heart disease, liver damage, and death over the years. A recent study dove deeper into specifically investigating this correlation between the amount of fried potatoes eaten during one’s lifetime and the risk of death. While the amount of un-fried potatoes consumed over the duration of the eight-year study had no statistically significant impact on mortality rates, the quantity of fried potatoes certainly contributed to the increased number of deaths. But what makes french fries so nutritionally poor given their healthy tuber origin? The answer lies in how they are made.

 Cut potatoes placed in a frier to make several servings of french fries.

Image Source: Christopher Jue

When potatoes are placed into the frier, they accumulate a great deal of trans fats and saturated fats. Unlike healthy unsaturated fats that are necessary for the body, an increase in trans fats raises the probability of stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. A typical medium restaurant order of french fries has in total about 20 grams of fat. This is roughly equal to thirty percent of the maximum recommended daily serving of fats, assuming a typical 2000 calorie daily diet.

The amount of sodium present in french fries is another concern raised by physicians nationwide. High levels of sodium in the body can promote heart disease and other health complications in the long term. According to the Institute of Medicine, it is advised that an individual should ingest no more than 2300 mg of sodium per day, though the average American eats closer to 3400 mg per day. Given that one medium serving of McDonald’s french fries, for example, contains about 270 mg of sodium, it is no surprise that french fries are characterized under the umbrella of  “junk food.”

French fries have also been shown to contain a dangerous chemical known as acrylamide. Specifically, when potatoes are fried in oil, the sugars undergo a chemical reaction that forms acrylamide, which can accumulate in the body. As more foods rich in acrylamide are consumed, the greater the risk acrylamide poses to an individual’s health. Amongst other health concerns, acrylamide has been verified by the European Food Safety Authority to have cancer-causing properties.

Despite their low nutrient content and the health-related consequences they have been linked to, french fries continue to remain an iconic part of American cuisine. According to doctors, consuming french fries and other fast food products from time to time is acceptable; however, the key word is moderation.

Featured Image Source: IMG_9278 by @joefoodie

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