French Fries vs. Almonds: A Surprising 30-Day Study

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For 30 days, a group of lucky participants got to enjoy a daily serving of French fries. Sounds like a dream, right? But this was no ordinary feast; it was a scientific experiment conducted by researchers from the University of Alabama-Birmingham. The goal? To test a fascinating hypothesis: would there be any difference in fat gain between those who added 300 calories of French fries to their daily diet compared to those who added 300 calories of almonds? Let’s dig into this study to uncover the results.


Observational studies have suggested a link between potato consumption, especially in the form of French fries and chips, and weight gain. However, these studies show correlation, not causation, leaving room for speculation. One possibility is that people who consume more potatoes might lead overall unhealthier lifestyles or have a tendency to overeat in general. Researchers acknowledge the limitations of such studies and cite a meta-analysis that indicates people tend to gain less weight than expected when they add energy (in the form of a specific food) to their diet. The theory is that individuals compensate for the extra calories by adjusting their behaviors.

The Study

This study was a randomised, controlled trial that involved 165 participants with an average age of 30 and an average BMI of 26. The majority (68%) were female, and none had type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Participants were divided into three groups:

  • Group #1: Almonds (the control group)
  • Group #2: French fries
  • Group #3: French fries with herb/spice mix

Each group was instructed to consume a pre-packaged, 300-calorie serving of their assigned food daily, with no other dietary modification instructions provided. Group #3 received an additional herb/spice mix to determine if it influenced the results. The researchers aimed to examine whether the herb/spice mix would affect how the participants’ bodies processed the calories.

Study Findings

The study found no significant differences in changes in fat mass between the groups. There were also no notable differences in body weight between the almond group and the French fries with the herb/spice mix group.

However, the group that consumed regular French fries (without the herb/spice mix) did experience a statistically different change in body weight compared to both the almond group and the herb/spice mix group.

Key Points to Consider

  • Short-Term Study: It’s crucial to note that this study was relatively short-term. While it measured changes in fat mass and body weight, it couldn’t assess the long-term health impact of such dietary changes over years or decades.
  • Lack of Monitoring: The researchers couldn’t monitor participants’ actual food intake or adherence to the dietary instructions. Whether participants followed the instructions precisely and consistently for 30 days remains unknown, making the differences in body weight less conclusive.
  • Potential Conflicts of Interest: The study received partial support from the Alliance for Potato Research and Education and included food donations from J.R. Simplot Company. Additionally, some of the researchers had received funding from the Almond Board and the Alliance for Potato Research and Education. While these factors were disclosed and didn’t affect the study’s methodology, they’re essential to consider when interpreting the results.

What You Can Learn from This Study

  1. Food Choices Matter: While the study suggests that adding 300 calories of French fries may not lead to more fat gain than the same calories from almonds, remember that the type of food you choose matters in your overall diet. Some foods are more satisfying and better for weight management than others.
  2. Nutrient-Rich Potatoes: Potatoes, including French fries, have nutritional benefits. They contain resistant starch and dietary fibre, which can make you feel full and support your digestive health. Plus, they provide essential vitamins and minerals.
  3. Plain Potatoes are Satisfying: Research has shown that plain-boiled potatoes are quite filling. They rank high on the “Satiety Index,” meaning they can help you feel satisfied with your meal. However, it’s often the toppings and additions like salt, oil, butter, and sour cream that contribute extra calories and may lead to weight gain.
  4. Consider Your Overall Diet: When making food choices, think about your entire diet and how different foods fit into it. It’s not just about one meal, but how your daily food choices align with your health and fitness goals.

In conclusion, this study offers insights into short-term effects, but remember that the bigger picture of your diet and individual preferences is vital for long-term health and weight management. As you make food choices, focus on balance and sustainability to achieve your health and fitness objectives.

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