The Douglass Report January 2005

January 2005 PDF

Potato politics make their way to your dinner table

Potato farmers are in a panic now that people are actually taking the low-carb advice seriously and are eschewing starchy, fattening foods-like potatoes. The farmers, acting like any group that is having its livelihood threatened, are telling bold-faced lies in their advertising campaign and have hired fitness promoter Denise Austin to tell those former french fry eaters to get back on the Ronald McDonald team.

The ad campaign's No. 1 mistake is overstating the claims about potatoes: "No fat or cholesterol!" "Potatoes can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and strokes." "Low in calories!"

The fact that potatoes contain no fat or cholesterol is irrelevant, since there is nothing inherently wrong with fat or cholesterol in the diet. There is no credible scientific evidence that potatoes can reduce the risk of high blood pressure or strokes. And, if you just eat the mush in the middle of a potato, you are getting a lot of calories.

Can you really trust nutritional advice from the author of Yoga Buns?

Since the potato farmers are shelling out big bucks for Denise to explain to fallen-away fry eaters why they should return to the starch trough, I thought I should check on her credentials as a nutritional consultant. Her biography lists her "credentials" as follows: Height: 5' 4", Age: 40-something, married with two children, Trademark: "Rock-hard abdominals."

I did a search for "education," but there was zero, zilch, NADA. The only things listed under education were her books and videos, which are meant to educate her customers on exercise. If she has any training for her educational role in life, it isn't mentioned in her biography. Did Denise go to high school? College? Yoga University? She wrote a book titled Yoga Buns, so I assume she has some advanced training in that area. But from what I could gather, she's hardly qualified to advise the nation on its nutritional needs.

My advice to the potato farmers of Idaho? Denise is cute, but you are insulting the intelligence of your customers to expect them to take her advice. Don't you have any universities in Idaho? If you ask the university folks, they will tell you that the nutrition in a potato is mostly in the skin, which 90 percent (or more) of your customers throw away.

Peeling away bad advice

Even government nutrition boards put out inaccurate and confusing information on potatoes. The Australian Department of Community Services and Health reports that the potato contains folate, vitamin C, niacin, B6, thiamin, iodine, and minerals.

But it peels off all this good information by telling its readers to "peel the potato just prior to cooking." Then they turn around and tell people that "only the thinnest layer of skin should be removed, as many valuable nutrients lie just beneath the skin."

Who is going to do that-and how? With a microscope?

Why don't they just come out and say it? Eat the skin or forget potatoes as a healthy food source (and even then, they're still questionable).

Actions to take:

If you're going to eat potatoes (and I'm not really suggesting you do), there are a few things you need to know in order to keep them at least somewhat healthy.

(1) Don't bake them in foil unless you want Alzheimer's disease.

(2) Cover them with lots of butter and bacon bits unless it's against your religion.

(3) Eat them with the skin. The skin is where the nutrition is--and most of the flavor. Cut your potato with a knife and fork and eat it as though it were a steak.


"Idaho potato farmers fight diet stigma," Reuters Health News (, 9/12/04