Quite an interesting element – one of the “secrets” of longevity and health, something that most people lack and can be supplemented without much trouble.
One thing that has changed with the epidemic of lifestyle diseases is the ratio of potassium to sodium in the diet. In one study where average intake was checked in people with hypertension, people consumed on average almost twice as much sodium as is recommended, while having half recommended potassium in their diet. Similar results were found for average urban dwellers.
What are the consequences of this four times higher than recommended ratio of sodium to potassium in our diet?
Everyone has surely heard about the connection of these elements with hypertension – although here they usually talk about excess salt. However, if you leave its intake as is, and only supplement potassium, you get a pretty clear therapeutic effect – blood pressure compared to placebo dropped by an average of 7/3 after 2 months:
Not a stunning result, but what if we drop sodium intake at the same time? In the meta-analysis, reducing salt intake was found to have a similar therapeutic effect. One can guess that the simultaneous use of both techniques will produce much better results.
There is a fairly strong link between this element and sleep quality – when hooked up to a device that monitors rest quality, it was found that those taking supplementation had significant improvements:
Epidemiological studies suggest that potassium may protect against kidney stones, strokes, or osteoporosis – these are unfortunately quite unreliable, as necessarily people who ate a lot of potassium also ate a lot more of other beneficial nutrients and less of the harmful ones. There is speculation that it affects many other diseases, or even that deficiency is the sole cause of them, but this is only speculation.
What is really interesting, however, is the theoretical link between sodium and potassium and cancer. Theoretical, because no one has ever tested it. This is pretty significant – a disease that affects an average of one in two people, that kills one in four, that costs a fortune to treat, and no one has ever tested in a clinical trial whether changing the ratio of sodium to potassium in the diet affects disease risk. Let’s take a look at what rationale we have at hand:
First, all the carcinogens analyzed in the above analysis had a negative effect on the sodium/potassium ratio inside the cells. On the other hand, all analyzed substances that protect against the disease had a positive effect on this ratio.
Second – the ratio of these two elements in cells changes with age, and at the same time the risk of cancer increases.
Third, diseases in which potassium concentrations increase (Parkinson’s and Addison’s diseases) are associated with a significant reduction in cancer.
And fourth – those diseases in which potassium levels decrease (obesity, stress, alcoholism) have a significantly increased cancer risk.
These are, of course, only theoretical assumptions. Seemingly everything agrees, but in science more than once and more than twice it has been the case that reality does not meet expectations. To be sure, it would be necessary to conduct several double-trial studies – initially on rats, then on humans. Unfortunately, the above list of premises did not prove sufficient for someone to conduct such a study. You can’t patent potassium.
So we are left guessing and taking risks. On the one hand, there is the risk that if we take an unproven supplement, it will do nothing for us and we will lose money. On the other hand (and this is what the so-called rationalists are unable to see) we have a much bigger thing – if the theory turns out to be correct, not taking that supplement will cost us our lives.
Given that statistically we have far too high an intake of sodium and far too low an intake of potassium, anyone eating a “normal” diet should be taking supplements if only to fit within the official recommendation.
In theory, a blood test should tell us whether we’re deficient in potassium, but in practice it will only tell us whether our body can regulate the level of potassium in the blood. Both with a large dietary deficiency and excess the results of laboratory tests will be identical, unless we lead to a really crisis situation.
Because of the need for high doses, I would suggest buying any of the salts by weight – chlorides, citrates or aspartates are used in medicine. Here an interesting fact – potassium chloride can be mixed with ordinary salt, they have a very similar taste. Thanks to this we will simultaneously supplement what we lack and limit the intake of sodium.
Tablets are a bit pointless – for example, in my country the popular aspartate contains only 100 mg of ions in one tablet, to get 100% of the daily requirement you need to swallow … forty of them. Doctors used to force patients to take something that contained 50 mg and told them to take 2 tablets a day. For five days such a patient replenished it as much as he would have after eating one banana.
For people who are ready to change their diet a bit – bananas, oranges or tomatoes are very rich sources, for example one banana contains up to 500 mg of potassium. Tomato juices are very nice, except that salt is usually added to them.
The recommended intake is about 4000 mg of ions per day, on average we consume 2000 mg so supplementation with 2000 mg will only provide us with the required amount – supplementation of a possible deficiency requires higher doses. Single very large amounts can be quite dangerous to health or even deadly – as with anything, drinking several liters of water at once can also kill.
People suffering from disorders of this element (kidney disease, hormonal disorders) should consult a doctor about supplementation.