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Food & diet

French fries, according to experts best not more than 6 per serving

January 9, 2019

The strict warning comes from the land of French fries, America, where this side dish is among the most popular and has always accompanied the traditional meals. To launch the anathema against French fries was in fact a Harvard professor, Eric Rimm, who stated in the New York Times that the right portion of this undoubtedly caloric dish should not exceed 6 units. The rest of the meal should be garnished with a healthier salad. We commented the news thanks to Dr. Elisabetta Macorsini, biologist and nutritionist at Humanitas.


“A starch bomb that quickly turns into sugar.”

“French fries are a starch bomb – wrote Eric Rimm – which turns into sugar quickly in the blood. I think it would be better if the main course came with a salad and six fries”. The advice, reported by the New York Times by a nutritionist from Harvard University, has already aroused the indignation of the network in a country where consumption of this food is much higher. Also in Italy, however, the consumption of this food is increasingly widespread.

“An average portion of fries served in the U.S. – insists the expert – has the same calories as two or three cans of a soft drink. The Americans, however, did not like the externalization, and expressed their anger on Twitter: from those who say that six fries is the amount one eats in a single bite and those who accuse the professor of ‘taking away the joys of life’. However, there is a lot of evidence about the danger of French fries to health. A study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently, for example, showed that people who eat two or three times a week have a greater risk of death.


The opinion of local nutritionists

“The work data reported suggest that the consumption of French fries more than twice a week is associated with an increased risk of death – commented Macorsini -. Many factors, however, could explain these results. Firstly, French fries and packaged chips generally contain large amounts of edible fats (including trans fats) and added salt, which may increase the risk of death, particularly of cardiovascular disease (1).

Second, increased consumption of French fries may increase the risk of other chronic diseases, such as obesity (2, 3), hypertension (4) and diabetes (5), which are also potent risk factors for cardiovascular disease.


Fried? Not more than once a month.

“Therefore – continues the dietitian of Humanitas -, further studies are necessary to understand if a higher consumption of French fries is associated with higher CVD and mortality from cancer due to a higher consumption of trans fatty acids, oxidized lipids, acrolein, acrylamide, furan and glycidamide (6, 7). Third, people who consume French fries more frequently may have other unhealthy eating habits, such as increased consumption of processed red meat, salty foods and sugary drinks, which may increase the risk of death (8, 9). Finally, medical conditions at work have been self-reported and may have introduced a certain level of bias. In conclusion, I fully share the reflection published on Twitter: “food is pleasure” so we consume fried “cum grano salis”: French fries included. Maximum once a month in a context of balanced diet.



1. Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Krauss RM. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fats with cardiovascular diseases. Am J Clin Nutr 2010; 91: 535-46.

2. Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. N Engl J Med 2011; 364: 2392-404.

3. Linde JA, Utter J, Jeffery RW, Sherwood NE, Pronk NP, Boyle RG, Flegal K, Kuczmarski R, Johnson C, Troiano R, et al. Specific diet, fat and fiber intake, and BMI behavioral correlates among overweight and obese members of a managed care organization. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2006; 3:42.

4. Borgi L, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Forman JP. Potato intake and incidence of hypertension: results of three prospective US cohort studies. BMJ 2016; 353: i2351.

5. Muraki I, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Manson JE, Hu FB, Sun Q. Potato consumption and type 2 diabetes risk: results of three prospective cohort studies. Diabetes Cure 2016; 39: 376-84.

6. Thürer A, Granvogl M. Generation of desired aroma-active and toxicologically relevant compounds when frying potatoes with different edible vegetable fats and oils. J Agric Food Chem 2016; 64: 9107-15.

7. Naruszewicz M, Zapolska-Downar D, Kosmider A, Nowicka G, Kozlowska-Wojciechowska M, Vikstrom AS, Tornqvist M. Chronic intake of potato chips in humans increases the production of reactive oxygen radicals from leukocytes and increases the plasma’s C-reactive protein: a pilot study. Am J Clin Nutr 2009; 89: 773-7.

8. Rohrmann S, Overvad K, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, Jakobsen MU, Egeberg R, Tjonneland A, Nailler L, Boutron-Ruault M-C, Clavel-Chapelon F, Krogh V, et al. Meat consumption and mortality – results of the European prospective study on cancer and nutrition. BMC Med 2013; 11:63.

9. Strazzullo P, D’Elia L, Kandala N-B, Cappuccio FP. Salt intake, stroke and cardiovascular disease: meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ 2009; 339: b4567.

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