A recent Harvard School of Public Health study has allegedly linked potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages and meat to weight gain, finding that “modest changes in specific foods and beverages, physical activity, TV-watching and sleep duration were strongly linked with long-term weight gain.” Dariush Mozaffarian, et al., “Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men,” New England Journal of Medicine, June 23, 2011. According to a June 22, 2011, press release, researchers evaluated “changes in multiple specific lifestyle factors and weight gain every four years over 12 to 20 years of follow-up in three separate large cohorts, the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHS II), and the Health Professionals Followup Study (HPFS).” Their results evidently showed that, across all three cohorts, “the foods associated with the greatest weight gain over the 20-year study period” included potato chips, other potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, unprocessed meats, and processed meats.
The study’s authors recommend that those looking to prevent long-term weight gain focus on (i) “improving carbohydrate quality by eating less liquid sugars (e.g. soda) and other sweets, as well as fewer starches (e.g. potatoes) and refined grains”; and (ii) “eating more minimally processed foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, yogurt) and fewer highly processed foods (e.g. white breads, processed meats, sugary beverages).” As one author concluded, “These findings underscore the importance of making wise food choices in preventing weight gain and obesity. The idea that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods is a myth that needs to be debunked.”