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Spuds Lower Blood Pressure T


he potato’s rep as a fattening food is getting a much-deserved revision. In a recent report in the American Chemi- cal Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists note that two small servings of purple potatoes a day reduce blood pressure by about 4 per- cent—nearly as much as oatmeal—with- out causing weight gain. The researchers say that decrease may potentially reduce the risk of some forms of heart disease. In the study, 18 volunteers that were overweight or obese with high blood


pressure ate six to eight golf ball-sized purple majesty potatoes, with skins, twice a day for a month. The researchers used purple potatoes because the pigment in darker fruits and vegetables is especially rich in beneficial phytochemicals. They monitored participants’ blood pressure, both systolic (the first number in a blood pressure reading, such as 120/80) and diastolic, and found that the average dia- stolic pressure dropped by 4.3 percent, while the systolic pressure decreased by 3.5 percent. None of the volunteers gained weight. Although they aren’t yet certain, the researchers believe that red- and white- skinned potatoes may offer similar benefits. Pass on the butter or sour cream, though, and don’t even consider French fries—the study’s potatoes were cooked without oil.


Build Muscles to Beat Diabetes


I


ncreasing lean muscle mass—known to be a key in fighting frailty associated with aging (a condition called


sarcopenia)—may also help protect against diabetes. A new study reports that every additional 10 percent of skeletal muscle mass is associated with reductions of 11 percent in insulin resistance and 12 percent in prediabe- tes or diabetes. Dr. Preethi Srikanthan, of the University of California, Los Angeles, and her colleagues recently evaluated the data on 13,644 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III, from 1988 to 1994, and discovered the con- nection. After adjusting for other contributing factors for diabetes, including generalized and abdominal obesity, they found that individuals with the greatest muscle mass were 63 percent less prone to the disease. “Our findings suggest that beyond focusing on losing weight to improve metabolic health, there may be a role for maintaining fitness and building muscle mass,” says Srikanthan. “This is a welcome message for overweight patients that experience difficulty in achieving weight loss, as any effort to get moving and keep fit should be seen as contributing to metabolic change.”


Source: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter


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