Potatoes Chock Full of Phytochemicals
By Jan Suszkiw
September 7, 2007
Americans love their spuds,
consuming 130 pounds per person annually. Now that culinary love affair could
grow even more passionate with Agricultural Research Service (ARS) findings that some potato varieties are
packed with health-promoting compounds called phytochemicals.
Using a new analytical method, ARS plant geneticist
Navarre and colleagues in Washington State and Oregon have identified 60
different kinds of phytochemicals and vitamins in the skins and flesh of 100
wild and commercially grown potatoes.
The team's analysis of Red and Norkotah potatoes, for example, revealed that
the spuds' total dietary-phenolics content rivaled that of broccoli, spinach
and brussel sprouts. These phenols included the flavonoids subgroup, which may
play a role in helping diminish cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems
and certain cancers, notes Navarre, at the
Vegetable and Forage Crops Research Unit in Prosser, Wash.
His team also identified potatoes with high levels of vitamin C, folic acid,
quercetin and kukoamines. These last compounds are of interest for their
potential to lower blood pressure, and have only been found in one other plant,
Navarre began his "phytochemical profiling" of potatoes in 2006,
working with ARS geneticist
Brown at Prosser, research associate Roshani Shakya at
Washington State University, and research
associate Aymeric Goyer at Oregon State
Earlier investigations of phytochemicals in potatoes and other crops have
been limited to one or two varieties. But Navarre's team significantly expanded
the search by using a method that draws on high-throughput liquid
chromatography and mass spectrometry. Their analysis of wild and cultivated
potatoes, for example, revealed phenolic concentrations of 100 to 675
milligrams per 100 grams dry weight.
Eventually, potato breeders, distributors and farmers will be able to use
the team's phytochemical profiles to explore new consumer markets, or even
develop entirely new varieties based on the dietary findings of nutritional
more about their work in the September 2007 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.