Potatoes can provide high-quality protein to help maintain muscle

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In a new study, researchers have found that the potato, primarily known as a starchy vegetable, can be a source of high-quality protein that helps to maintain muscle.

The findings highlight the potential benefits of what is considered a non-traditional source of protein, particularly as dietary trends change, and worldwide demand has increased for plant-based alternatives to animal-derived sources.

The research was conducted by a team from McMaster University.

While the amount of protein found in a potato is small, the team grew lots of potatoes and the protein, when isolated, can provide some measurable benefits.

The researchers recruited young women in their early twenties who consumed diets containing protein at the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 0.8 grams of protein/ per kilogram of weight/day, which would be approximately 60g of protein for the average woman or 70g for the average man.

One group of participants consumed additional potato protein isolate—in the form of a pudding—doubling their intake of the RDA to 1.6g/kg/d. Another group received a placebo.

The researchers found the women who consumed the additional potato protein increased the rate at which their muscles made new protein, while the placebo group did not.

The findings show the recommended daily allowance is inadequate to support the maintenance of muscle in these young women.

Perhaps more interesting is that a form of plant-derived protein, which has generally been thought to be of lower quality than animal-derived protein, can have such a beneficial effect.

To study the impact of weightlifting, the research team then instructed both groups of women to exercise only one of their legs.

In the leg the women exercised, the scientists did not find any extra benefits from potato protein.

This means exercise is just such a more potent stimulus for making new muscle proteins compared to potatoes.

The demand for protein has risen dramatically to meet the increased demands from the rising global population and plant-based proteins could fill that gap.

This study provides evidence that the quality of proteins from plants can support muscle.

The lead author of the study is Sara Oikawa, a former graduate student in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster.

The study is published in the journal Nutrients.

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