Life Extension Magazine®
Mashed sweet potato linked with benefits of inflammation

Issue: Dec 2018

Sweet Potato

The sweet potato, popular during the holidays, may help improve blood sugar levels and reduce oxidation.

Scientifically reviewed by: Holli Ryan, RD, LD/N, on March 2021. Written By Garry Messick.

That mainstay of Thanksgiving dinners, the sweet potato, is a root vegetable that is only a distant relative of the regular potato. This flavorful tuber was brought to Spain from its native Peru around the year 1500, and from there Spanish and Portuguese explorers carried it to locations around the world, including the Philippines, China, and India. In the mid-1700s, the vegetable was dubbed the “sweet potato” in the American colonies in order to avoid confusion with the typical white “Irish” potato.

By itself, without the sugar and marshmallows that are often added to it in recipes, the sweet potato has a number of health benefits, such as…

What you need to know

Sweet potatoes provide a variety of health benefits. Research shows that these tubers have oxidant-reducing effects that may help fight obesity and inflammation, as well as lower blood sugar levels. And the purple sweet potato shows promise in tumor reduction.

Inflammation and Obesity

In vitro research has found that extracts from sweet potatoes have oxidant-reducing effects and may potentially fight obesity and inflammation.1

Toxin Inhibition

One study found that purple sweet potato inhibited the detrimental effects of toxic chemicals such as pyridine and dimethylhydrazine, which can promote colorectal tumors. Tumors induced in rats by exposure to these substances were reduced by 5% with the introduction of purple sweet potato color (anthocyanins) from the vegetable.2


The sweet potato has a long history of use for diabetes in traditional medicine. But is there any scientific evidence to back up these folk practices? Apparently so. For example, one study instructed 140 patients with type II diabetes to supplement with a sweet potato preparation on a daily basis. After a period of three to five months, the subjects’ HbA1c levels were found to have moderately improved compared to placebo.3

There’s also evidence that edible sweet potato leaves taken from a Japanese variety of the plant may help regulate blood glucose concentration due to their polyphenol content.4 In a powdered form, this sweet potato leaf extract enhanced secretion of glucagon peptide-1 (GLP-1) in diabetic rats. GLP-1 prevents after-meal blood sugar spikes. After five weeks, blood sugar levels were lowered as well.


  1. J Med Food. 2011 Oct;14(10):1097-106.
  2. J Toxicol Sci. 2002 Feb;27(1):57-68.
  3. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Sep 3(9):Cd009128.
  4. Food Funct. 2014 Sep;5(9):2309-16.