French fries may be tasty, but doctors have long warned against consuming them too often because of their hefty doses of both sodium and saturated fats. For dieters, they have long been a forbidden thing. Now there may be even more reason, given a report in 2005, to choose a healthier alternative to French fries.
In late 2005, a survey study by several women’s hospitals, Harvard, and Brigham Young University evaluated nurses who had consumed French fries at least once weekly during early childhood. Those nurses who ate them on a weekly basis were 27% more likely to develop breast cancer as adults.
While the study is not all-inclusive, since it only studied one population, it does lead one to conclude that French fries may pose additional risks to developing one of the most difficult and life-altering cancers. In response, many fast food companies began offering alternatives, such as fruit or vegetable servings.
This study did not suggest that all “forbidden foods” pose the same potential risk. Women who ate hot dogs or ice cream, according to this survey, were found to be at no additional risk for developing breast cancer.
A similar study done in Sweden in 2002 suggested that heating certain starchy foods, like potatoes or breads, tends to produce a chemical called acrylamide, which is thought to be a cancer causing substance. Fries and potato chips were particularly high in this substance, thus providing a potential link between French fries and cancer. The study, which included random samples, was not wide enough to warrant removal of such products from the market.
In addition, the chemical seemed to be present whether a potato was baked or fried. This suggests that people might still be at increased risk if they choose oven fries or a baked potato over a serving of French fries.
In 2006, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition further concluded that both potatoes and French fries seem to lead to an increased risk in the development of Type II diabetes. The risk was higher among women who were already obese.
All these combined studies suggest that potatoes and French fries in particular may not be a good nutritional choice and should be eaten sparingly. Other studies have shown that starchy foods like baked potatoes do have some health benefits, however. In all cases, it would seem that eating a varied diet, with few repetitions of potentially harmful foods, is what's most important.