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French Fries vs. Pasta for Better Postprandial Glycemic Control

Mar 26, 2016

Is there a difference when children consume carbs as part of a meal?

Over the last 40 years, the consumption of potatoes has decreased by 41%. French fries have been removed from many school cafeterias and restaurant meals for children as evidence has been presented showing the consumption of french fries may lead to increased risk of obesity. There have also been dietary recommendations to substitute potatoes with rice and pasta, which could have lower glycemic indexes (GI). However, carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice and pasta are rarely eaten alone, but are commonly consumed with other foods, which lower the GI of the entire meal. Carbohydrates when eaten with other foods such as meat are consumed 23-31% less by men, according to Erdmann J et al. However, there are no similar studies in children.


The rationale of this study was that current dietary recommendations regarding carbohydrates are not based on meal studies, but are based on their high glycemic index rather than their functionality as an entire meal. The objective was to determine the effects of commonly consumed carbohydrate side dishes such as potatoes, pasta, and rice, along with a fixed portion of meat on food intake, satiety, blood glucose, insulin and gut hormone response among children aged 11-13 years with healthy body weight over a 2-hour period.

For this study, two experiments were conducted. Both were randomized, repeat-measures design. There were five treatment sessions that consisted of ad libitum servings of rice, pasta, boiled mashed potatoes, baked french fries, and fried french fries with a fixed amount of meatballs (100g). Participants were instructed to consume a standardized breakfast once a week 4 hours prior to meeting at the laboratory. Participants in experiment 2 were asked to provide a baseline finger-stick capillary blood sample to ensure compliance with fasting instructions. Thereafter, the participants were seated in individual cubicles and instructed to eat the entire 250 grams of carbohydrate with meatballs. Additional servings of carbohydrates were made 20-30 minutes after consuming the meal until individuals were satiated. The amount of food served to each individual was weighed and recorded. Blood samples after the meals were collected to measure the concentrations of GLP-1, acylated ghrelin, and peptide YY (PYY). Plasma insulin concentrations were also measured.

The results indicated that the consumed weight of baked french fries and fried french fries was lower (P < 0.0001) in both experiments. The energy intake was lower after the boiled mashed potato meal compared to the other meals. Blood glucose and insulin 30 minutes post consumption of meals was lower in fried french fries compared to other carbohydrates (P = 0.0039, P = 0.2988, respectively). Fried french fries sustain lowest blood glucose and insulin levels throughout the entire post-meal period (30-120 minutes) (P < 0.0001, P = 0.0018, respectively). The post-meal GLP-1 concentrations were found to be similar for all the meals. Post-meal concentrations of ghrelin were found to be lower with fried french fries, when compared to pasta (P = 0.0168). PYY concentrations were lower after the boiled mashed potato meals, when compared to fried french fries and baked french fries (P = 0.0113).

The study concluded that the current dietary recommendations of energy intake and glycemic response during and following ad libitum meals containing carbohydrates such as potato, pasta or rice are inaccurate based on their glycemic index. Children who consumed boiled mashed potatoes with meals had 30-40% lower caloric intake; and children who consumed fried french fries had a lower peak blood glucose concentration when compared to children who consumed boiled mashed potatoes, pasta or rice. As G. Harvey Anderson, PhD, executive director of the Center for Child Nutrition and Health at University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, added, “We need to give advice on the basis of meal composition and balance, but not [stress] one component as good or bad.”

Practice Pearls:

  • Normal-weight children who consume french fries with lean beef have lower postprandial blood glucose and insulin concentrations when compared to consumption of other carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, or boiled mashed potatoes.
  • Children who consume boiled mashed potatoes with meals have a lower caloric intake as compared to other carbohydrates.
  • Using the glycemic index of carbohydrates with mixed meals to predict the postprandial glucose concentrations can be misleading.

Researched and prepared by Sabair Pradhan, Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate USF College of Pharmacy, reviewed by Dave Joffe, BSPharm, CDE

Akilen R, Deljoomanesh N, Hunschede S, et al. The effects of potatoes and other carbohydrate side dishes consumed with meat on food intake, glycemia and satiety response in children. Nutr Diabetes. 2016;6:e195.


French fries, not pasta, may offer better postprandial glucose response. Helio Endocrinology Today. http://www.healio.com/endocrinology/diabetes/news/online/%7B0d97c611-1cf1-4210-b626-7cd99ffa1808%7D/french-fries-not-pasta-may-offer-better-postprandial-glucose-response. Published February 16, 2016.