(NaturalNews) Excessive sodium intake can be damaging for heart health. On the other hand, eating more potassium gives cardiovascular wellbeing a boost. A recent groundbreaking study has revealed that it is not just about the quantities of these two nutrients which are important; instead, it is the ratio of their amounts which is a crucial factor. The study had found that a 2:1 intake of potassium to sodium may lower one's risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 50%.
Details and Findings of Study
For the study, which was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers had looked at data from two large trials which were originally carried out in the late 80s and early 90s to find out the link between blood pressure and several factors, for example diet and weight loss. During those studies, some of the study subjects were asked to reduce their sodium intake by up to 35%. A few times during the study period, urine samples over a 24-hour period were collected. These samples were then used by the researchers to assess the nutrient intake of each person. This procedure improved the accuracy of the experiment by not using self-reported information, which can be unreliable.
Results published earlier in 2007 had revealed that study subjects who ate less sodium, even for just a short period of a few years, had a 25% lower chance of dying from cardiovascular disease 10 to 15 years later, as compared to those who carried on eating large amounts of the mineral.
For the current study, the team zoomed in on the latter group and discovered that even among those who continued eating a lot of sodium, the subjects who consumed more potassium generally had a lower long-term risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Further, they found, too, that those with the highest potassium-sodium intake ratio (about 2:1) had only half the risk of cardiovascular disease death as compared to those with the lowest ratio (about 1:4). According to the study's findings, the said ratio actually mattered more than the actual quantities eaten.
Potassium, Sodium and Their Ratio
Indeed, potassium and sodium play a key role together in the body in maintaining water balance and blood pressure. Current dietary patterns are, however, heavily skewed in favor of sodium. Most Americans in fact consume a lot more than the American daily recommended maximum amount of 2,300 milligrams. This trend is highly undesirable as numerous studies have shown that too much sodium can cause fluid retention, elevating blood pressure and the risk of heart disease death.
On the flip side, potassium has been shown in studies to help regulate blood pressure; elevated blood pressure, of course, greatly increases one's risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack. Current American guidelines suggest a minimum of 4,700 mg of daily potassium, which is incidentally about double the recommended maximum amount of sodium. Surveys, however, have suggested that Americans are on average eating 4,000 mg of sodium and only 2,600 mg of potassium each day. This is certainly an alarmingly lopsided ratio.
The realization of the importance of the potassium-sodium ratio is a crucial one. At the same time, it is also a reminder to us of the intricate and often complex interactions between different nutrients and compounds in our bodies. This lends some weight to the belief that it is better to obtain our nutrition from a balanced diet containing largely whole foods and whole food supplements, as opposed to loading up on specific nutrients with the hope of achieving a specific purpose.
Boosting Your Potassium-Sodium Ratio
A great way to boost your potassium-sodium ratio is to eat more fruits and vegetables, which are rich in potassium, and to lower your intake of salty, refined and processed foods, which are common features of the typical modern day diet. Besides helping to boost cardiovascular health, fruits and vegetables, of course, also come with a host of other beneficial nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, to name a few.
Indeed, a study conducted in the 1990s found that men who ate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, poultry and fish had 30% less chance of suffering heart attacks, as compared to those who ate less of these foods. On the other hand, those who ate more refined grains, sweet foods, processed meat and red meat had a 64% elevated risk of heart attacks, as compared to men who ate the least of such foods. Further, another study carried out on women revealed a 15% lower risk of cardiovascular issues in those who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables, as compared to those who ate low amounts of these foods.
Speaking about the recent study's findings, Eva Obarzanek, a registered dietitian and research nutritionist at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and a member of the study team, said: "This provides further proof that sodium is bad and potassium is good."
That is perhaps a rather simplistic generalization, as both nutrients are actually necessary for good health. However, in view of the fact that typical modern day diets are heavily skewed in favor of the "wrong" mineral, so to speak, that statement then makes a lot of sense when taken in the right context. The overall moral of the story is actually quite simple - consume less (or no) salty processed foods, and more fruits and vegetables. You can't go far wrong with that.