Power of the potato: Study evaluates low-fat potato-based diet coupled with exerciseThe Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center hopes to prove that a diet consisting of low-fat potato recipes and the right amount of exercise are an effective means of combating obesity.
By: Will Powell, Grand Forks Herald
The Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center hopes to prove that a diet consisting of low-fat potato recipes and the right amount of exercise are an effective means of combating obesity.
“I think potatoes are healthy for people,” says Susan Raatz, lead researcher for GFHNRC’s Lifestyle Modification and Potato Consumption project.
The project, which officially began in March, operates through a$100,000 grant from the U.S. Potato Board, which is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Raatz, who served as an associate professor and researcher in Minneapolis before joining the GFHNRC in 2009, conceptualized the weight-loss study.
“I responded to a request from the U.S. Potato Board to assess the effects of potatoes,” Raatz says. “We’re hoping that we can identify how to include potatoes in a healthy lifestyle and the best way to prepare them for the public.”
Funding for the project will run through May, and Raatz estimates recruitment will take two to three months to complete. Raatz plans to gather atotal of 75 volunteers across several “intervention” cycles that will be at least eight weeks long. The recruitment phase is in its early stages, so the project’s first cycle has not yet begun. Raatz says 25 volunteers would be the maximum fora single intervention cycle, but there could be more if there wasa high demand to volunteer.
“We’re looking for people between 20 and 65 who are in good health, but generally sedentary,” Raatz says. “They’ll go through eight weeks of classes with a dietician.”
The weight-loss study will aim to understand every aspect, impact and downside of alifestyle modification program in which a potato diet is the focal point. The weight-loss study will not include guided exercise, Raatz says, but volunteers will be encouraged to increase their overall physical activity. Raatz is certain, however, that volunteers will enjoy at least part of the project.
“We’ll prepare the potatoes,” Raatz says. She and her team will personally prepare six potato recipes in three different varieties.
“We have three cold potato salad recipies: tuna potato salad, greek potato salad and vegetable potato salad,” Raatz says. According to Raatz, the project team also will serve its volunteers buttered potatoes, cheese potatoes and scalloped potatoes. Raatz’s interest in potatoes is both professional and personal. “I like potatoes,” Raatz says. “They’re a good source of the nutrients that many people need, including vitamin B, vitamin C, and potassium.”
While Raatz is curious, yet confident in regards to the research project’s outcome, the end result of the project is difficult to predict. If the project proves that a potato diet can be the deciding factor in the success of a weight-loss intervention program, dieticians across the country might seek new ways to implement potato-based meals in their own intervention programs.
“My goal is to define the best dietary patterns for people,” Raatz says.
Copyright 2013, Grand Forks Herald.