Those french fries could kill you, a new study says. But don’t panic!

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ITALY: Hey, you, the dude reading this story on your phone over a pile of french fries: Back slowly away from the crispy spuds. They’re out to get you.

That’s the apparent takeaway of a study published this month by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It analyzed the potato consumption of 4,440 American participants, aged 45 to 79 years, over an eight-year period. Researchers used questionnaires to determine each person’s spud-eating habits, including both fried and unfried products, and then used the data to trace links between potato consumption and mortality.

“No study existed about this possible association!” emailed Nicola Veronese, a scientist with the National Research Council in Padova, Italy. Veronese was the lead author and one of a dozen researchers who took part in the study. “There were some studies, re: potato consumption and cardiovascular disease and mortality, but we did not find any paper re: potatoes and mortality!”

[I tried to eat with the McDonald’s frork. It was actually kind of fun.]

Exactly 236 people died during the course of the study. After adjusting for a variety of factors — education, race, income, alcohol consumption and exercise, among other things — the researchers concluded that people who eat french fries more than twice a week are doomed. Doomed!

Okay, they didn’t actually say that. What they did say was that folks who ate “fried potatoes” two or more times a week “were at an increased risk of mortality.” And not the kind of minuscule increase that’s easy to brush off for those firmly committed to their death sticks. The researchers concluded that frequent fried potato eaters more than doubled their risk of premature death.

The ray of hope for tuber lovers? “The consumption of unfried potatoes was not associated with an increased mortality risk,” the study noted. No word if those unfried potatoes were drenched with butter, slathered with sour cream and sprinkled with pre-shredded cheddar.

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