Fast food, soda, potato chips, cookies. Fat, carbs, sugar. We've heard it all at one time or another, this makes you fat.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reports how much weight a person is likely to gain or lose over four years based on one additional daily serving of a range of specific foods. Potatoes were found to be correlated with a gain of 1.28 pounds, and French fries were associated with a 3.35-pound gain.

Should we spud the spud from our diets?

The American Heart Association has certified potatoes as heart healthy. The vegetable is a good source of vitamin C, B vitamins, and minerals (iron, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium). It was honored by the U.N. and the year 2008 was declared the International Year of the Potato.

How is a vegetable healthy for us a lead culprit in the overweight and obesity epidemic sweeping this nation from adults to children?

The study's research team found that the type of potato mostly being consumed in excess is French fries (+3.4 pounds/4 years) and potato chips (+1.7 pounds/4 years). An extra serving of potatoes in non-fried or non-deep-fried form contributed to an average of +1.3 pounds/4 years.

According to the USDA, the average American consumes 117 pounds of potatoes per year and only 28%, about 33 pounds, are consumed in a healthier form, steamed or baked.

We may say, I'm watching my weight, but can we really when a serving of French fries gives you 500-600 calories, according to Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health?

The study suggests, that the path to eating fewer calories is not simply to count calories, but to focus on consuming a more healthy diet in general, wrote Dr. Mozaffarian.

Is it really potato chips that contribute to overweight and obesity?

According to the CDC, There are a variety of factors that play a role in obesity. This makes it a complex health issue to address...behavior, environment, and genetic factors may have an effect in causing people to be overweight and obese.

The Caloric Balance Equation, adapted from U.S. Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, 2001, explains:

=> Overweight and obesity result from an energy imbalance. This involves eating too many calories and not getting enough physical activity.

=> Body weight is the result of genes, metabolism, behavior, environment, culture, and socioeconomic status.

=> Behavior and environment play a large role causing people to be overweight and obese. These are the greatest areas for prevention and treatment actions.

    The site offers other information regarding weight management: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/causes/index.html

    If you are serious about keeping off the pounds, you may want to look into the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.

    In the press release, the USDA offers some quick tips:

    => Enjoy your food, but eat less.

    => Avoid oversized portions.

    => Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

    => Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

    => Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals - and choose the foods with lower numbers.

    => Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

      More information can be found here: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietaryguidelines.htm

      You may have seen the old exercise motto, No pain, no gain. The saying applies to all areas of life, excelling in school, excelling at work, even maintaining relationships. The same would apply to health as well. Harvard and all the top colleges can research all the foods that contribute to our health and weight problems, but the bottom line is will you do something about it? This may just be the best investment one can make especially in the long run because you may just live to see it.