Recent Scientific Discoveries About Sweet Potato

Almost any potato lover knows how to bake a potato, but not many are aware of the numerous scientific confirmations we have that this awesome gift of nature is not just something to kill hunger, but a food worthy of its place in the list of nutritious and overall beneficial foods.

So much interest has been generated concerning potatoes to the point that food scientists are diving deeper into research. Here, the academic world meets the kitchen world, and our dearest potatoes become a subject of much research. Let us share some more recent discoveries from researchers around the world:

  1. Sweet potato can warn against insect attacks: Anjat Meents and Axel Mithofer from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany discovered in 2019 that one chemical in potato named DMNT could signal other plants close by that insects are coming! This happens through a complex mechanism where they emit a unique odor that triggers the defense mechanisms of other plants that have chemical receptors for the odor. Of course, this study was done using specific species; nevertheless, when next you think of how to bake a potato, have in mind that they are pretty intelligent.
  2. Sweet potato encodes more genes than humans do: A 2019 journal published in the Journal of Proteome Research revealed that one sweet potato possesses even more coded genes than we humans do. The researchers led by T. Al-Mohanna, together with George and Sorina Popescu were able to identify and isolate 3,143 proteins that are unique to sweet potato leaves and another 2,928 from the roots. From their findings, they were also able to predict 741 new regions that code genes. Truly remarkable that our dear sweet potato packs so much genetic information.
  3. Muscle power: Researchers at McMaster University recently discovered how potatoes could be a source of a protein that keeps the tone of muscles. Sara Oikawa, a researcher at the university, published a paper describing how young women in their twenties were placed on a diet with the protein RDA, with another group having an additional potato protein isolate. This latter group came back with a faster muscular protein synthesis rate than the former. Talk about potato power.

While all we may think of is how to bake a potato, we all should take the time to appreciate the scientific facts backing our love for this beautiful vegetable. Try replacing some less-beneficial carbohydrates with potatoes and find value.