RSSPotatoes may increase risk for birth defects

Posted on Thu, 11 Apr 19

Potatoes may increase risk for birth defects

Maternal consumption of sprouted or green potatoes may increase the risk of birth defects, according to a novel observational study. Safe potato consumption may be an important preconception nutritional consideration. 

Neural tube defects and orofacial clefts are relatively common birth defects and thought to be multifactorial in origin with unhealthy diet, smoking and alcohol consumption some of the known contributors to increased risk. Folate deficiency is also known to be an important and common risk factor and folic acid supplementation is a well-established preventative measure. 

Potatoes are an important food crop, but sprouted or green potatoes contain high concentration of a glycoalkaloid called solanine with evidence of reproductive toxicity in experimental studies. 

To see if there was an association between sprouted potato consumption and birth defects data - including mother’s demographic characteristics, reproductive history, lifestyle, folic acid supplementation, smoking exposure, and consumption of sprouted potato and other foods - was collected from a large number of mothers with and without reported congenital anomalies. 

When comparing neural tube defect cases to the control group the researchers found an approximately 2.20-fold increased risk for neural tube defects among mothers who consumed sprouted potato more than 4 times per week with the risk increasing with frequency of sprouted potato consumption. 

The association between sprouted potatoes and risk was not found in mothers with a higher consumption of B vitamins, which fits with experimental evidence suggesting that folic acid may reduce the toxicity of solanine.

Very few studies have previously assessed the risk of sprouted potato consumption making this one of the first. But despite the originality of these findings they “provide novel insight into the aetiology of neural tube defects and orofacial clefts and propose a new way to prevent from birth defects,” according to the study authors. 

“Maternal consumption of sprouted potato could be avoided through health education and pre-pregnancy care,” they note. “Further studies aiming to replicate the findings in other racial groups and to construe the fundamental mechanism underlying the association of sprouted potato consumption and birth defects are needed.”


Ni W, Tian T, Zhang L, Li Z, Wang L, Ren A. Maternal periconceptional consumption of sprouted potato and risks of neural tube defects and orofacial clefts. Nutr J. 2018 Nov 28;17(1):112.

Tags: Potato, Birth Defects, Folate

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