Either the French are blessed with skinny genes or they just know how to eat food that is both good and good for you. As the French sip on wine with cheese and baguettes, Americans whuff down burgers and a side of French fries. 

If the French are big potato eaters, they apparently know what researchers just discovered, potato consumption actually decreases body weight.

The shocking discovery is exactly the opposite of what we previously believed. Potatoes contain carbohydrates, which break down into glucose (sugar) in the body. When we don't burn off enough of that glucose, it becomes stored as fat, causing weight gain. While eating loaded baked potatoes isn't the best food choice when on a diet, researchers found that raw potato extract can aid in weight loss.

A team of researchers from McGill University conducted an experiment where lab rats were fed an "obesity-inducing diet," which included a diet high in fats and carbs for ten weeks. One group of mice were given a polyphenol-rich serum extracted from about 30 Irish potatoes per daily dose.

Published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, the researchers found that while the rats started off weighting 25 grams, on average they gained another 16 grams. But surprisingly, not all the mice gained weight a bunch of weight. The group of mice that were given the raw potato extract only gained seven to 10 grams in the same 10 week period.

"We were astonished by the results," says study co-author Luis Agellon. "We thought 'this can't be right'-in fact, we ran the experiment again using a different batch of extract prepared from potatoes grown in another season, just to be certain."

But the second experiment showed the same results.

The researchers credit the high amount of "good" polyphenols that are found in the potatoes for causing the decreased weight gain. While researchers are not sure about how polyphenols help the body, they know that it has been tied to health benefits like preventing diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

And while the study found that potatoes can help decrease weight gain, they warn that they had to feed the lab rats a serious amount of potatoes daily. "We don't advise anyone to eat 30 potatoes a day," says lead study author Stan Kubow, "as that would be an enormous number of calories."

Still, the compound found in raw potatoes could help fight against obesity, type 2 diabetes, and may even explain the "French paradox," the strange phenomenon where French people have a low incidence of heart disease, even though they eat diets high in saturated fats. In that case, more French fries please!

[Photo Credit: jamonation/Flickr ]

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