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Is my ignorance in preparing potatoes coming back to kill me?!
February 22, 2010 4:00 AM   Subscribe

Am I dying from potato plant poisoning (solanine)?

I'm not trolling...I'm just (hopefully) being a hypochondriac. So I started this new food plan, which requires me to eat some different meals 6-times a day. For two of my meals today, I ate baked potatoes that I baked last night, in the oven without foil, for an hour. Maybe I just lack common sense, but I just gave them a quick wash, nothing crazy, and some of them have little darker spots with tiny tiny little growths. I flicked some of them off, but I didn't think it really mattered to ensure they were all completely off. I thought it was normal for russet potatoes, but while the skin is dark brown, the inside of the skin had a slight green tint.

So I ate my second potato, with a grilled chicken breast, about an hour ago, and then just somehow stumbled across Potato plan poisoning.(!!!)

So I'm sitting here, feeling very tired all of the sudden. Granted I only got about 3 1/2 hours of sleep last night, it's about 8PM currently, and I had a pretty rigorous workout this morning. All of my common sense is telling me I'm just tired because of that. However, the neurotic side of my brain, about a good 80% of it, is telling me my fatigue is me drifting slowly into Death's open arms. Am I being completely irrational, or should I be worried and just go to ER for safe-measure? I know it may sound strange, but I certainly do not want to go out because of a potato.
posted by jimdanger to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
IANAD but let's look at the other symptoms:

-do you have a fever?
-are you vomiting or nauseous?
-do you have stomach pain?
-Vision changes?

Or, any other symptom at all from the list?
I don't see fatigue on that list. Yes you need sleep.

Again IANAD but if it were me I'd think I'd get some rest and then see how I feel afterwards. If I started to get actual symptoms from that list, then yes I'd go to the Dr.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 4:07 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh and P.S.

Again IANAD but the website says:

Death has been reported, but is rare.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 4:14 AM on February 22, 2010

Two potatoes shouldn't be enough to give you poisoning (see the info on Also, Wikipedia has the hopefully-reassuring note that 'no reported cases of potato-source solanine poisoning have occurred in the U.S. in the last 50 years and most cases involved eating green potatoes or drinking potato-leaf tea'.
posted by brambory at 4:15 AM on February 22, 2010

Am I being completely irrational,

You have 3 1/2 hours sleep and a workout and you get tired = perfectly normal. You get tired while trying to digest some food? Do you not get sleepy after Christmas dinner? Perfectly normal.

As mentioned, unless you have at least one of the other symptoms, you're totally panicking over normal behaviour, for my money.
posted by Brockles at 4:16 AM on February 22, 2010

Oh for goodness sake. Repeat the phrase "I'm tired and I'm scaring myself with half-baked thoughts" ten times to yourself. Then get an early night. A tired mind is much more prone to getting hung up on irrational ideas. A good sleep will miraculously rid you of this phantom poisoning.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:21 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh for goodness sake. Repeat the phrase "I'm tired and I'm scaring myself with half-baked thoughts" ten times to yourself. Then get an early night.

From the original post, he baked the potatoes for an hour, so they were likely at least three-quarters baked.

And perfectly fine. Assuming you bought the potatoes at a grocery store, know that they likely received some nominal washing/processing before landing in that five-pound bag, and are good to go with only a brief rinse under the sink. The days of scrubbing potatoes because of caked-on dirt is likely behind us.
posted by GamblingBlues at 4:25 AM on February 22, 2010

I am an emergency department doctor and I say please come to the emergency department because someone could use a good laugh today and "Potato poisoning" as a chief complaint is going to bring the house down...

But seriously, this is so rare that they don't even teach us about it in emergency medicine training. I bet if you bring this up to a doctor they will look at you with a blank stare. Thank you for posting this because now if it ever comes up, I can look smart to the toxicologists.

If you feel sick, you could consider going to the emergency department, but also, please consider calling your primary care doctor first, that is what they are on call for. Generally, your first thought when you are sick or have a medical question should be to call your primary care doctor (and I mean talking to the doctor, not his secretary who will always tell you to go to the ER because he or she is not a medical professional and has no idea what is wrong with you).

If you feel tired, sleep. If you get a good amount of sleep and still feel very fatigued, you could call your primary care doctor to discuss the possibilities, but fatigue is generally not an emergent condition, and it does not look like it is a symptom of potato poisoning either.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:31 AM on February 22, 2010 [13 favorites]

I'm going to bed. Thanks for all the responses...I feel a little better. Hopefully, I can look back at this later in laugh. G'night.
posted by jimdanger at 4:50 AM on February 22, 2010

No problem Jim, by the way, I was looking around at other sources on solanine poisoning, and saw that the reason it is so rare is because the potatoes in question (green/sprouting ones) look and taste so clearly wrong (very bitter) that the only time people tend to eat them is during a drought/mass starvation or other crisis event. So if your potatoes tasted decent, that is another reassurance. Night!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:22 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sounds like it.
posted by ged at 5:51 AM on February 22, 2010

Well, hopefully you had a good sleep. But yeah, former poison-control person here, and you would need to have like, a completely green potato to even feel the mildest of the symptoms (stomach upset) and the likelihood is that the taste of it would put you off before you ingested enough to do any harm.
posted by gaspode at 5:59 AM on February 22, 2010

All a mild case of potato poisoning will do to you is make your mouth taste weird and green potatoes taste worse. Eat more than that and you'll become nauseous. You need to eat about ten times as much as it takes to bring on nausea before your life is in danger.
posted by flabdablet at 6:12 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Data point: when I was young and poor, I used to make potato salad that was so green you'd think it was for a St. Patrick's Day picnic. Never had the slightest effect, then or now. However, weirder stuff has happened on three hours' sleep!
posted by aquafortis at 7:39 AM on February 22, 2010

A slight green tinge is okay. I eat "slight green tinge" potatoes all the time, because I refuse to waste perfectly good potaters.

The green tinge isn't the solanine itself. It simply indicates that the conditions for solanine production are nigh. As mentioned, a potato has to go quite bad - inedibly bad - before enough solanine has built up to be damaging. And even then, you have to eat a damned lot of it in order to get sick.
posted by ErikaB at 9:57 AM on February 22, 2010

You know foods high in carbs make you sleepy, right?
posted by Space Kitty at 10:34 AM on February 22, 2010

When it comes to potatoes I sometimes like to joke that "potatoes are poison". But I base that not on the solanine issue, but on this study, PUBMID: 18503250 which found that potato consumption is associated with shorter life spans - a finding that's somewhat preliminary, but good enough for me to justify my bias against and hate of potatoes. I avoid them, because I hate their taste in all forms (including chips), but it's nice to back up one's prejudice with science. I like this study so much, I'm sure to bring it up many times on metafilter [emph. mine]:

"Gerontology. 2008;54(4):232-7. Epub 2008 May 26.
Differences in overall mortality in the elderly may be explained by diet.
González S, Huerta JM, Fernández S, Patterson AM, Lasheras C.

Departamento de Biología Funcional, Area de Fisiología, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Oviedo, Oviedo, Spain.
BACKGROUND: Although a relationship between diet and mortality is well recognized, there is little information on the extent to which different food sources contribute to survival in elderly people. OBJECTIVE: To examine the effect of individual food groups on mortality in institutionalized elderly people from Asturias (Northern Spain) after 6 years of follow-up. METHOD: The dietary intake of 288 elderly people aged 60-85 years was assessed using a semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). Age, gender, energy intake, chewing ability, hyperglycemia, hypercholesterolemia, physical activity, smoking habit, self-perceived health, education level and the institution from which participants were recruited were covariates in Cox regression models analyzing the effect of food on survival. RESULTS: Fruit intake was found to be inversely associated with overall mortality. Multivariate adjusted mortality rate ratio (95% CI) per 1 SD increase in fruit intake was 0.714 (0.519-0.981). On the contrary, each 1 SD of potato intake led to a 32% higher risk of death (RR (95% CI) = 1.319 (1.033-1.685)). CONCLUSION: A high intake of fruit late in life was associated with a longer survival. An inverse association between potato intake and survival was also observed, but further research is necessary before any firm conclusions about the possible harmful aspects of potato consumption can be drawn. "

So if I were you, I'd fear solanine less, than eating potatoes at all.
posted by VikingSword at 11:06 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the replies. I obviously didn't die, but I did learn a hell of a lot about potatoes!
posted by jimdanger at 7:18 PM on April 4, 2010

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