The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Indicate that You Should …

Forget the Phony 1%-99%
Controversy And Ask
Are You Part of the 0.015%?

The shocking news is that a mere ≤ 0.015% of the American population is currently
meeting the joint dietary guidelines for sodium and potassium.

By Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw

T he 1%-99% controversy is a political propaganda piece intended to promote class warfare and envy, arguing that there is a supposed domination of the economy by 1% of the population with the other 99% under the thumb of the 1%. As part of the 99% (we are not in the top 1% of income earners), we disagree with that phony depiction of the American economy, but the 0.015% we mentioned in the title above is a genuine health issue, where a tiny minority of the population has a distinct advantage that could be corrected easily by an individual currently in the disadvantaged 99.985%.

We are talking about a recent report1 published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that examined whether the American population was meeting the 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommending an upper limit to daily sodium consumption of 2300 mg/day (with an upper limit of 1500 mg/day for adults aged >50 years, non Hispanic blacks, and those with diabetes, hypertension, or chronic kidney disease). The recommended potassium consumption per day is 4700 mg/d. The shocking news is that a mere ≤ 0.015% of these populations is currently meeting the joint dietary guidelines for sodium and potassium.

As described by the authors of the report: “Adult Americans consume too much sodium and not enough potassium. The health consequences of excessive sodium intakes and a high sodium-potassium ratio are severe, leading to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. In recent analyses of deaths linked to NHANES III data (1988–1994), higher sodium-potassium ratios were associated with a higher risk of all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality.”

Among persons recommended to consume <2300 mg sodium/day, <0.12% jointly met the sodium and potassium guidelines, whereas in those recommended to consume <1500 mg sodium/day, the guidelines were jointly met by <0.015%. The sodium/potassium ratio recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines was either 0.49 (2300/4700) or 0.32 (1500/4700).1

The data were derived from two nonconsecutive days of 24-hour dietary recalls. Admittedly, there are problems with these types of dietary estimates, including faulty memories of what one has eaten. Nevertheless, it is difficult to see how the amount of potassium could be much greater than the amounts estimated due to the limited food sources for the mineral, with the richest dietary sources commonly eaten including white potatoes, prune and carrot juices, tomato paste and juice, citrus juices, beet greens, spinach, lentils, yellowfin tuna, and bananas.1 The authors also note, importantly, that recent studies have indicated that diets high in potassium are associated with sharply higher diet costs.1 As the authors suggest, “[m]any people may find it easier to achieve high potassium intakes with commonly eaten food/beverages, such as coffee, potatoes, and milk than with some vegetables, fish, nuts, and seeds.”

Moreover, the authors note, low sodium intake can be achieved in principle by reducing intake of foods containing high levels of sodium but that at that level of sodium restriction, the recommended amounts of other nutrients may not be met. In fact, they said, “[n]otably, for all persons aged <50 years, the 1500 mg goal [of sodium intake] was not feasible, and no mathematical solution was obtained, primarily because of the relatively high energy requirements for this group.”1

In addition, the amount of sodium consumed from table salt was not included in the estimates of sodium intake, indicating, “that the current values are underestimates of actual intakes.”1

From a public health perspective (the point of view expressed in this report), the matter of increasing the public’s ingestion of potassium and decreasing that of sodium to the joint dietary guidelines would require “extraordinary efforts.” From an individual perspective, however, the goal of reaching the desired sodium/potassium ratio can be easily achieved by increasing potassium ingestion with a potassium supplement. We recommend the form of potassium that we take (having designed the formulation for our own personal use), potassium bicarbonate, for a number of reasons (see “Potassium Bicarbonate Supplementation” and “Potassium Bicarbonate for Reduced Blood Pressure and Increased Muscle Mass,” both in the April 2009 issue of Life Enhancement).

Unlike most forms of potassium currently offered in supplement form, such as potassium chloride,1b potassium bicarbonate preserves lean muscle mass2 and reduces calcium excretion;3 potassium bicarbonate also reduces dietary acid load, which is one way to preserve lean muscle mass.4

You, too, can join us as part of the highly exclusive and healthy 0.015%!


1. Drewnowski et al. Reducing the sodium-potassium ratio in the U.S. diet: a challenge for public health. Am J Clin Nutr 96:439-44 (2012).
1b.Morris et al. Differing effects of supplemental potassium chloride and potassium bicarbonate: pathophysiological and clinical implications. Semin Nephro 19(5):487-93 (1999).
2. Frassetto et al. Potassium bicarbonate reduces urinary nitrogen excretion in postmenopausal women,” J Clin Endocrinol Metab 82:254-9 (1997).
3. Frassetto et al, “Long-term persistence of the urine calcium-lowering effect of potassium bicarbonate in postmenopausal women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 90:831-4 (2005).
4. Dawson-Hughes et al. Alkaline diets favor lean tissue mass in older adults. Am J Clin Nutr 87:662-5 (2008).

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