Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. Diets high in sodium increase the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. With the widespread consumption of processed foods, many people find it difficult to limit their sodium intake. A study has just revealed that, in women, a diet high in potassium can combat the effects of a high sodium diet and lower blood pressure. In men, on the other hand, a diet rich in potassium has no significant effect.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide, ending some 17.9 million lives each year. The main risk factors are high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking, but diet is also a contributing factor.
A diet high in sodium is generally thought to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Processed foods, especially ultra-processed foods, often contain high levels of salt, so many people struggle to control their sodium intake. A Dutch study, published in the European Heart Journal, found that women may be able to combat the effects of sodium by eating a diet high in potassium, which may lower their risk of CVD. A large, well-conducted cohort, the study was introduced in the 1990s, which is far from the case today: Our food environment and the sources of sodium in the diet have changed a lot since then. The authors also acknowledge that drawing a conclusion with clinical impact from a 24-hour urine sample is an important limitation.
A greater effect in women
The large-scale study involved almost 25,000 participants from the EPIC-Norfolk study in the UK. Participants ranged in age from 40 to 79, with the average age being 59 for men and 58 for women. At the start of the study, all participants completed a lifestyle questionnaire. The researchers then measured their blood pressure and took a urine sample. They revealed the dietary intake of sodium and potassium by determining the urinary levels of these two minerals. The researchers analyzed the effect of potassium intake on blood pressure, after adjusting for age, gender and sodium intake.
In women, they found a negative correlation between potassium intake and systolic blood pressure (SBP), the higher the intake, the lower the SBP. The effect was greatest in women with the highest sodium intake. In women with a high sodium intake, each 1 gram increase in daily potassium was associated with a 2.4 millimeters of mercury (mm/Hg) drop in SBP. A drop in SBP of just over 1 mm/Hg is not clinically significant in practice.
What this indicates is that sodium intake is not the only factor on which we propose to prevent CVD, and that personalized nutritional approaches are essential for achieving optimal health outcomes,” concluded Professor Spector, responsible for the study. The researchers found no association between potassium intake and blood pressure in men.
Foods High in Potassium
The WHO recommends that adults consume 3,510 milligrams (mg) of potassium and no more than 2,000 mg of sodium per day. Most adults currently consume too much sodium
and too little potassium in their diet.
To increase potassium intake, a person should include potassium-rich foods in their diet.
Among these are
– sweet potatoes
– dried fruits, such as raisins, apricots and prunes
– beans, peas and lentils
– the lawyers.
Professor Spector offered advice along these lines: “I think the advice we need to give is to increase whole plant foods that are naturally high in potassium, such as avocados, pulses, artichokes, beets and apricots. , and minimize ultra-processed foods which are often very high in sodium. »
The researchers followed the participants after a median of 19.5 years, the last recorded being in March 2016. During that time, 55% were hospitalized or died due to cardiovascular disease. The researchers looked for any association between dietary potassium and cardiovascular events, after controlling for age, sex, body mass index, sodium intake, use of lipid-lowering drugs, smoking, consumption alcohol, diabetes, and history of heart attack or stroke.
They found that, overall, people with the highest potassium intakes had a 13% lower risk of cardiovascular events than people with the lowest intakes. Analyzed separately, high potassium intakes reduced the risk by 7% in men and 11% in women. Dietary sodium did not activate the relationship between potassium and CVD.
The results proved that potassium helps maintain heart health, but women benefit more than men. The relationship between potassium and cardiovascular events was the same regardless of salt intake, suggesting that potassium has other ways of protecting the heart besides increasing sodium excretion.
Another way to protect cardiovascular health?
Although higher potassium intake had the greatest effect in women on high sodium diets, current advice is to limit sodium intake. Reducing sodium intake alone does not lead to a health-enhancing diet, it simply attempts to reduce the risk by removing a single component from the diet, which is too reductionist
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