Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 24, 2017
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Minerals: not just about sodium

We always hear that too much sodium leads to heart disease. New research suggests that other trace elements are equally important in the prevention of high blood pressure, diabetes and other diseases.

Potassium, sodium and chloride work together to ensure that the body transmits electrical impulses accurately. Currently, Canadians consume too much sodium but not enough potassium.1 Based on the last statistics from Health Canada, most adults consume about 3400 milligrams of sodium, much higher than the recommended 2300-milligram upper limit established for sodium intake.2

At the same time the Canadian Community Health Survey showed that most Canadians are not consuming adequate amounts of potassium. Currently, the recommended daily intake is 4600 milligrams. In Canada, the average intake for men is 3200 to 3400 milligrams, while for women it’s 2400 to 2600 milligrams.3 A recent article in the journal Stroke suggests that as the intake of potassium increases, the risk of stroke decreases.4

Potassium is quite easy to include in our diets, since it is abundant in many vegetables. Chard, spinach, winter squash, cod, lentils and low-fat yogurt are excellent sources of potassium. Broccoli, tomatoes, cantaloupe, green beans, carrots and bananas are very good sources. Celery, molasses, kiwi, oranges, strawberries and sweet potatoes are examples of foods considered to be sources of potassium.

Eating a baked potato with the skin on would give you the most potassium for the least amount of money.5 For most adults, not consuming the seven to 10 portions of vegetables and fruits daily, as suggested in Canada’s Food Guide, is an indication that they're not consuming enough potassium.

Another study published in the Nutrition Journal shows that adding potassium and magnesium to the diet, while at the same time reducing sodium, would result in a reduction in systolic blood pressure.6

In this particular study, sodium chloride added to food was replaced by a new type of “salt” made up of 50 percent NaCl, 25 percent KCl, and 25 percent magnesal (magnesium ammonium potassium chloride hydrate). An earlier study showed that when sodium chloride was replaced by potassium chloride or potassium citrate, blood pressure levels went down.7

Although many studies show that potassium has a blood pressure-lowering effect, some scientists were concerned that the chloride in the molecule would raise blood pressure. However, both potassium chloride and potassium citrate lowered blood pressure by about the same amount.

This option may have an added bonus: a meta-analysis of 23 prospective cohort studies showed that a higher intake of magnesium was associated with a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes.8 Foods that contain magnesium include Swiss chard, spinach, halibut, pumpkin seeds, black beans, kidney beans, cashews, almonds, brown rice, quinoa and oats.

Imagine all the strokes and diabetes we could avoid if people only took the time to eat balanced meals.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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