Research Review: Potato Protein Isolate Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis

Author : Dr. Akshay Alawani, INFS Faculty Head

With this research review we would also like to bring to your attention the importance of “critical evaluation of a study” and how it benefits coaches.

What is this critical thinking? And how does it help one in practice?

We have heard many a times that looking at a study critically is essential.  However, how it translates to application and how it benefits one as a coach, are the questions that many students ask. Often times, the studies are used as a tool for debate. Revolving around the same area of research, one person posts a research study with a conclusion which is slightly different from the conclusion of another research study posted by another person. This communication becomes a ‘fuming debate’.


As Jyoti  Dabas, asked me to do a quick review of a study,  I am going to use this research review as an example and unfold few crucial things in this post which will convince you (hopefully) about the importance of the critical thinking process. I will tell you how a few ‘critical points’ have helped me use this paper for personal and hence, my client’s benefit.

research review

First, go through the full paper or abstract. ( download pdf to see complete document)

Now that you have read the study, let me show you how to evaluate it.

This is a novel intervention. At the end of the study, we do see the benefits of potato protein (elevated MPS). Potato protein additional to resistance exercise has given more pronounced effect. There is no doubt in that.

However, I would have loved to see more groups in the study. They are comparing groups eating 0.8 gm/kg protein to the group eating 1.6 gm/kg protein, and the latter group received the supplement. We know that just increasing amount of protein in the diet itself can substantially enhance muscle protein synthesis. Hence, this enhanced benefit might be only because of the ‘extra protein per kg’. If I had a different group receiving 1.6 gm/kg protein from a regular diet, not just the effect, ‘comparative effect’ would have been seen.

what do I know so far:

1. PP isolate is effective in enhancing MPS.

2. I do not know if this is better than a normal diet that is equal in protein quantity.

3. I do not know if this is better than milk-protein or meat etc. (basically no comparison available)

4. I do not know of any long term effects.

What should I do next?

1. I may find other studies on other proteins and compare the MPS rates.

2. Keep a tab on potato protein research.

3. If a couple of more studies prove the benefits which are repeated elsewhere, maybe with other arms, I will look forward to that. Also, I would look forward to a long term study.

How will my clients benefit?

Indian vegetarian clients often complain about whey/ soy protein. In future, they can be prescribed potato protein supplement. This option can be cost-effective, as well.

Few casual points

1. Researchers reduced carbs in 1.6 g/day group. That may have suppressed the insulin comparatively and undermined the benefit.

2. Rather than Harris benedict, they could have used Henry oxford.

3. They have relied on diet/exercise history given by patients. It is often flawed. Also, adherence is always an issue in any nutrition study designed in free-living conditions. They have tried to maximise adherence and measure compliance which is excellent.

4. PP group seems relatively stronger (baseline) and also muscular. They have excluded women who used to do >1 exercise session per week. This tells us some of them may engage in resistance exercise once in a while. Maybe more of them were in the PP group. This is a probable source of bias. This can happen by chance. Doesn’t seem like deliberate as authors recognise the strength difference.

Also, science daily has posted an article with this title – ‘Potato power: Spuds serve high quality protein that’s good for women’s muscle.’

This is more like saying ‘eating more potatoes is better for women muscles’. How about a title like ‘Spud protein isolate: a promising alternative protein supplement’. My line is catchy as well, just not misguiding. So I will also remind myself that I shouldn’t trust media before verifying evidence.


This is not full criticism. I avoided going ‘academic’ on this. Academic critical review means dissecting the methods, techniques, rationale and so much more. I am merely trying to tell you how you can reach an educated and highly useful conclusion after reading a paper if you have critical thinking abilities. The better you get at it, the better you get as a professional, the better you perform as a coach!

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