Here’s why a professor recommended six measly French fries as an ideal portion size

French fries might not be considered a healthy food, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a healthy debate about them. The beloved and versatile dish sparked a heated discussion around the Internet today, nearly one week after the New York Times published an article quoting a Harvard University Professor who recommended an appallingly small serving size for French fries.

“There aren’t a lot of people who are sending back three-quarters of an order of French fries,” Dr. Eric Rimm said in the piece.“I think it would be nice if your meal came with a side salad and six French fries.”

Six French fries. Some Twitter users were shaken to their core by the recommendation. He also called the plate “starch bombs.”

While six French fries might seem like a paltry portion size for fry-lovers, the recommendation isn’t too far-fetched, as there are many studies that link fried food to deadly diseases. Heart disease, for which fatty foods are thought to be a partial cause, is the leading cause of death in America. In 2017, at least 20 percent of adults in every American state struggled with obesity. Specifically, the New York Times pointed to a study from last year in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that stated potatoes have a high glycemic index, which is linked to an increased risk of obesity-related diseases such as diabetes. The study also found that those who ate fried potatoes two to three times a week had a higher risk of mortality compared to those who didn’t.

“The frequent consumption of fried potatoes appears to be associated with an increased mortality risk,” the authors of the study concluded. “Additional studies in larger sample sizes should be performed to confirm if overall potato consumption is associated with higher mortality risk.”

Giving up French fries is a lot to ask, but Dr. Rimm’s health advice is certainly sound, in that there is ample evidence that it is healthiest to limit one’s consumption of fried foods.

Rimm has since been interviewed by Vanity Fair about the backlash, and isn’t backing down on his recommendation.

“Am I really a monster?” he wrote in an e-mail to Vanity Fair. “A lot of tweeters in the U.K. and the U.S. act like I just caused a third world war!”


Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a news writer at Salon. She covers health, science, tech and gender politics. Tweet her @nicolekarlis. MORE FROM Nicole Karlis

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