Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw’s®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 14 No. 4 • September 2011

Americans Getting Inadequate Amounts of Some Vitamins and Minerals

Despite being relatively well off, many Americans do not get adequate quantities of certain vitamins and minerals in their diets and may need to either alter their diet to counter these deficiencies or to add supplements to their daily regimen. Data were analyzed from the NHANES data for 2003–2004 and 2005–2006 in a published study.1 Various USDA food composition databases were used to determine the micronutrients derived from foods consumed by NHANES participants and reported in the 24-hour recall dietary interview. The first dietary interview was done in person, while a second was obtained by telephone interview.

A bit confusing in this paper was the use of different estimates of dietary adequacy. The EAR (estimated average requirement), AI (adequate intake) and the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) were three such measures. As reported here,1 only 3 and 35% of Americans assessed by the NHANES data had total usual intakes of potassium and vitamin K, respectively, greater than the adequate intake. “The percentage of individuals aged ≥2 y with total usual nutrient intake, including that from foods and dietary supplements, falling below the EAR was considerable for vitamin D (70%), vitamin E (60%), calcium (38%), vitamin A (34%), vitamin C (25%), and magnesium (45%) (Table 1).” “Less than 3% of the population had total usual intakes that exceeded the AI [adequate intake] for potassium ...” “... very few individuals obtained the recommended level of potassium.”

What stands out most clearly to us in this report is the remarkable deficiency of potassium intake by most Americans assessed by NHANES data. It is very important to get adequate amounts of potassium, either from the diet or via supplementation for, among other things, maintaining normal blood pressure. The modern American diet contains too high a ratio of sodium to potassium when compared to the Paleolithic human diet. While the nagging nanny state agencies are trying to get Americans to decrease their sodium intake by constant messages haranguing the public or by regulation (coercion) of the food industry, we think it is far more important from the point of view of improving the health of Americans to increase the potassium intake. For example, a recent paper2 reports that low serum potassium appears to be independently associated with incident type 2 diabetes and low dietary potassium is more common in African Americans than in whites. Hence, the authors suggest that “[l]ow serum potassium concentrations in African Americans may contribute to their excess risk of type 2 diabetes relative to whites.”

We recommend taking potassium bicarbonate (such as our potassium supplement). Take 2 capsules two to four times daily with meals. Two capsules provide a total of 2.7 grams of potassium bicarbonate (containing 1.05 grams of elemental potassium); take with meals to avoid possible stomach ache. As we have reported before (see “Potassium Bicarbonate Supplementation” and “Potassium Bicarbonate for Reduced Blood Pressure and Increased Muscle Mass” in the April 2009 issue of Life Enhancement), potassium bicarbonate has been shown to reduce blood pressure, whereas other forms of potassium have not.


  1. Fulgoni et al. Foods, fortificants, and supplements: where do Americans get their nutrients? J Nutr Aug. 26, 2011 doi: 10.3945/jn.111.142257.
  2. Chatterjee et al. Serum potassium and the racial disparity in diabetes risk: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. Am J Clin Nutr 93:1087-91 (2011).

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