Forget Salt. Focus on Potassium.

by Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN on July 13, 2011

That pain in your neck? Another case of nutrition whiplash, I’m afraid. Earlier this year, the USDA’s new Dietary Guidelines for Americans made the need to reduce sodium intake one of its primary messages.

Then, just last week, a new Cochrane Review concluded that  “cutting down on the amount of salt has no clear benefits in terms of likelihood of dying or experiencing cardiovascular disease.”

And this week, researchers from the CDC insist that “a diet high in sodium increases risk of death  from all causes.”

But a closer look at the latest CDC data offers a possible explanation for the madness.

The CDC data reveal that your risk of dying increases about 20% for every additional 1,000 mg of sodium you consume.   But hang on.

It also found that your risk of death decreases by about 20% for every additional 1,000 mg of potassium you consume.  And when you take both sodium and potassium into consideration, it turns out that a high potassium intake largely offsets the effects of high sodium intake.

Maybe instead of harping on everyone to reduce their sodium intake, we should be campaigning instead to get people to increase their potassium intake.   In other words:

Eat your vegetables. (Season to taste.)


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

aesh came July 14, 2011 at 3:40 am

an eye opener~thx~ i love reading your brief yet solid posts~

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Darya July 14, 2011 at 10:13 am

Hi Monica,

I did a show on salt a few weeks ago and dug through all the literature. I found the potassium thing then (surprise!), but also found another interesting finding: the effect of sodium is compounded in the presence of fructose. Also, right now 75% of our sodium intake comes from processed foods. So processed foods high in sugar are way way way worse than sodium on unprocessed foods, and not eating your veggies makes this even worse.

Cool, huh?

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Monica Reinagel, MS, LN July 14, 2011 at 10:48 am

Fascinating! When you look at the foods that tend to be high in sodium (processed foods, snacks, junk, fast food, take-out), ya gotta wonder how much the sodium really has to do with it. I think it’s just a ride-along…

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