Multiple countries struggling with potassium, sodium consumption

Multiple countries struggling with potassium, sodium consumption

Nutrition is a complex and at times confusing subject, but when you boil it down to the essentials, proper eating is all about giving your cells the fuel they need. Phytonutrients like potassium aren’t just good for you, they’re actually essential to proper cell health and routine cellular activity. If you fail to provide your body with the nutrients it needs – or if you consume harmful substances on top of that – your cells will let you know.

Despite the importance of following a healthy diet, a new study from researchers from universities in the U.S., U.K., France and Mexico, and published in the journal BMJ Open, may indicate that people across the world still are not fueling their cells with the proper amount of essential phytonutrients like potassium. However, people are also consuming far more harmful substances like sodium, and their cell health is suffering for it.

PotassiumPush for potassium
According to the World Health Organization, the average adult should try to limit his or her daily sodium intake to less than 2,000 milligrams. On the other hand, you should also do your best to consume a minimum of 3,510 milligrams of potassium.

If you have trouble translating metric units into what it’d look like on your plate, the authors of the BMJ study broke it down for you: The average banana has about 425 milligrams of potassium, so you’d have to eat eight of them before you even started approaching the WHO recommendations.

If this seems like a difficult benchmark to reach, the findings of the study agree. Adam Drewnowski, Ph.D., lead author of the study, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the School of Public Health at the University of Washington, explained that a very small minority of Americans – 0.3 percent – follow diets that satisfy the WHO guidelines on sodium and potassium.

“A very small minority of Americans – 0.3% – follow diets that satisfy the WHO guidelines.”

However, the stereotype of the overweight American doesn’t apply in this case, as only 0.5 percent of French eaters could boast healthy diets. Mexicans followed closely behind at 0.15 percent, though only 0.1 percent of U.K. citizens met the targets.

“The data confirm that we eat too much sodium and not enough potassium,” Drewnowski said in a statement. “But they also suggest that the numbers being proposed by WHO and other health agencies are completely unfeasible. The chances that a majority of a population would achieve these goals is near zero.”

Why you need potassium and sodium
If you think you can replace all the table salt in your house with bananas and potassium-rich beans, you’d be doing a disservice to your cell health. While the study’s findings indicate that people around the world aren’t consuming the right balance of these two phytonutrients, the cellular roles of these chemicals should persuade you to give it another try.

Unlike health foods that are advertised under general claims of wellness, potassium and sodium have clearly defined responsibilities in the production of cellular energy. If you remember the term “adenosine triphosphate” from high school biology, then you know ATP is the primary molecule your cells use to power everything from metabolism to immune function and pretty much anything else.

However, to produce ATP, your cells need to bring in other nutrients from outside their sturdy cellular membranes. That’s where the Na /K pump comes in. Cells normally store sodium molecules that have a lower electric charge than their potassium counterparts. Using a complex chemical mechanism, the cell can actually force sodium out when concentrations in the body are low and bring potassium in when the opposite is true inside the cell. This creates a greater charge potential, which the cell then uses to bring in other sugars, substances and molecules it needs to create the energy you use throughout the day.

It’s not just that you need to increase potassium intake, but you must also watch how much sodium you’re consuming. However, the study authors noted that many foods high in the beneficial phytonutrient are also flavored with sodium to appeal to more consumers. That means any time you think you’re improving cell health by consuming potassium, you may actually be doing more harm than good.

So are you and your cells doomed to a life of high sodium and low potassium? Not necessarily. While processed foods might not help you consume the right balance of phytonutrients, cell health supplements can. With a specially formulated combination of not just potassium, but all the substances your cells need to perform at the best of their chemical potential, cell health supplements can help you intake everything you need while avoiding everything you don’t.

While the optimistic WHO guidelines may be difficult to achieve, adding cell health supplements to your already balanced diet can do wonders.