Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The low modern potassium-to-sodium ratio: Big problem or much ado about nothing?

It has been argued that the diets of our Paleolithic ancestors had on typical a a lot larger potassium-to-sodium ratio than present day eating plans (see, e.g., Cordain, 2002).

This a lot reduced contemporary ratio is thought by some to be the lead to of a variety of wellness issues, which includes: higher blood pressure, stroke, heart ailment, memory decrease, osteoporosis, asthma, ulcers, abdomen cancer, kidney stones, and cataracts.

But, is this truly the circumstance?

The potassium-to-sodium ratio in ancient and modern moments

According to some estimates, our Paleolithic ancestors’ daily consumption was on average about 11,000 mg of potassium and about seven hundred mg of sodium (salt). That yields a potassium-to-sodium ratio of about sixteen. Today’s ratio in industrialized countries is approximated to be about .six.

Just for the sake of illustration, allow us assess a healthful Paleolithic diet plan meals, walnuts, with a modern day industrialized foodstuff that many feel to be fairly wholesome, whole-wheat bread. The table under (click on it to enlarge) compares these two meals in conditions of protein, carbohydrate, unwanted fat, vitamin, and mineral content material.

Walnuts have a potassium-to-sodium ratio of about 205. The whole-wheat bread’s ratio is about .5 significantly reduced, and shut to the total ratio estimated for industrialized nations talked about above.

At the identical time, walnuts provide a better dietary value than complete-wheat bread, such as a very good sum of omega-3 fatty acids (two.5 g of α-linolenic acid, or ALA). Even so, walnuts have a reasonably large omega-six fat content material.

Also, a lot of diabetics expertise elevated blood glucose amounts in response to entire-wheat bread, in spite of its glycemic index currently being supposedly lower than that of white bread. Walnuts do not seem to trigger this sort of difficulty, even even though a number of individuals are allergic to walnuts (and other tree nuts).

Health results of the potassium-to-sodium ratio

So, the potassium-to-sodium ratio appears to have been a lot higher between our Paleolithic ancestors than today. It is critical to tension that, even though this is a likelihood, we do not know this for certain. Animals go to excellent lengths to uncover salt licks, and then eat loads of sodium in them. Our ancestors could have completed that as well. Also, we know that sodium deficiency can be fatal to each animals and individuals.

As for the numerous negative health consequences of a lower potassium-to-sodium ratio in modern humans, we have factors to be fairly skeptical. A single has to wonder if the reports that are out there do not conflate the results of this ratio with people of other factors, this sort of as using tobacco, weighty liquor use, or consumption of industrialized substantial carb meals (e.g., cereals, pasta, refined sugars).

An additional achievable confounding aspect is potassium deficiency, not the potassium-to-sodium ratio. Potassium deficiency, like other deficiencies of important minerals, including sodium deficiency, is connected with significant overall health difficulties.

If potassium is deficient in one’s diet, it is also very likely that the potassium-to-sodium ratio will be lower, unless of course the diet program is also similarly deficient in sodium.

Enable us just take a appear at a study by Ikeda et al. (1986), which integrated information from forty nine areas in Japan, a region recognized for large consumption of sodium.

This study identified a important association in between the potassium-to-sodium ratio and total mortality and coronary heart disease, but only amid guys, and not among women.

1 miracles, based mostly on this, no matter whether an additional uncontrolled aspect, or aspects, may possibly have biased the results. Examples are smoking cigarettes and heavy alcohol consumption, which could have been higher among guys than girls. One more is long-term pressure, which could also have been increased amid guys than women.

The researchers report that they found no association among the potassium-to-sodium ratio and mortality owing to diabetes, liver ailment, or tuberculosis. This ameliorates the issue fairly, but does not rule out the biasing effect of other variables.

It would have been much better if the researchers had managed for the blended effect of covariates (this sort of as smoking cigarettes, alcohol usage and many others.) in their analysis which they did not.

Additionally, the research discovered no association between the potassium-to-sodium ratio and blood pressure. This is a purple flag, simply because numerous of the illnesses said to be induced by a low potassium-to-sodium ratio are assumed to be mediated by or at minimum associated with high blood stress.

Relating to the possible confounding result of industrialized high carb meals intake, it seems that a lot of of these meals have a reduced potassium-to-sodium ratio, as the case in point of whole-wheat bread earlier mentioned exhibits. Therefore, some of the wellness difficulties assigned to the minimal potassium-to-sodium ratio may possibly have truly been brought on by weighty usage of industrialized large carb food items.

It is also feasible that the dilemma is with the mix of a minimal potassium-to-sodium ratio and industrialized large carb food items usage.

At the time the review was carried out, Japan was somewhat westernized, which is why industrialized high carb foodstuff consumption may have been a aspect. The US strongly affected the Japanese after World War II, as it assisted rebuild Japan’s financial system.

In summary, the jury is nonetheless out there concerning whether or not the low modern potassium-to-sodium ratio is a big issue or a lot ado about practically nothing.


Cordain, L. (2002). The Paleo Diet: Drop fat and get wholesome by taking in the foodstuff you had been developed to try to eat. New York, NY: Wiley.

Ikeda, M., Kasahara, M., Koizumi, A., and Watanabe, T. (1986). Correlation of cerebrovascular illness standardized mortality ratios with dietary sodium and the sodium/potassium ratio amongst the Japanese inhabitants. Preventive Medication, 15(one), forty six-59.
Title: The low modern potassium-to-sodium ratio: Big problem or much ado about nothing?
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