Minerals That Really Mattter
|It seems that vitamin and mineral recommendations are always changing so here are the latest dietary recommendations for four very important minerals:
In the dietary batle against high blood pressure, sodium restriction gets the glory but potassium is the real unsung hero. It helps rid the body of sodium and protects cells that line the blood-vessle walls. In addition to blunting the effects of sodium, a potassium rich diet is also associated with a reduced risk of bone loss, kidney stones, strokes and type 2 diabetes.
Unfortunately, nearly all Americans consume too much sodium and far to little potassium. A September 2010 study suggests what might happen if people corrected the sodium-potassium ratio. It found that even if sodium consumption stayed high, increasing potassium to the recommended levels (4,700 milligrams a day) could reduce the risk of heart disease mortality by up to 11% and stroke mortality by up to 15%.
So is it enough to simply take potassium supplements or use salt substitutes made with the mineral? Probably not since those are different forms of potassium and will likely not provide the same benefit as the form found naturally in foods.
Too much potassium is not a problem for most people, but certain medical conditions and drugs can interfere with the body’s ability to get rid of the excess. You should talk with your doctor before increasing your potassium intake, even from food, if you have a disorder that causes potassium retention, such as diabetes, heart failure, or kidney disease. Additionally, seek your doctor’s opinion if you take ACE inhibitors, such as lisinopril (Prinivil and generic) and ramipril (Altace and generic); angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), such as valsartan (Diovan); and potassium-sparing diuretics, such as spironolactone (Aldactone and generic).
Dietary Sources of Potassium
Magnesium together with potassium, helps to bolster bone by improving calcium absorption. Magnesium also protects against abnormal heart rhythems, blood clots, and high glucose levels.
Magnesium might be especially important for warding off or controlling type 2 diabetes. Several large studies have found that people who consume the most magnesium are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes or a contributing factor for it called insulin resistance.
People who already have the disease should talk to their doctor about supplemental magnesium, since evidence suggests that they might get help with long-term blood sugar control.
Dietary Sources of Magnesium
About 60% of men and 80% of women don’t get enough calcium from their diets. For years, the advice has been to make up the shortfall with supplements, but new research provides an argument for getting more from food.
The analysis, published online in August 2010 by the British Medical Journal, combined the results of 11 trials involving some 12,000 older people. Researchers concluded that treating 1,000 people with supplemental calcium for five years would prevent 26 fractures but would also lead to an additional 14 heart attacks, 10 strokes and 13 deaths. The analysis however did not look at studies that combined calcium with vitamin D, and evidence suggests that the combination more effectively prevents fractures. In addition, consuming healthy amounts of calcium, especially from food, might protect health in other ways, such as lowering blood pressure, helping to prevent breast and colon cancer, and easing premenstrual syndrome.
Altogether, the research provides an argument for getting most of your calcium from dietary sources. Aim for a least three daily servings of dairy or calcium-rich foods. If you do opt for a calcium pill, consider one that also contains vitamin D. Look for products with the “USP verified” seal on the label, which indicates that they meet quality standards set by the nonprofit U.S. Pharmacopoeia.
Dietary Sources of Calcium
For lowering blood pressure, the most striking effect comes from cutting sodium from your diet while boosting the intake of potassium, magnesium and calcium. People who slash sodium intake to around 1500mg daily can drop their blod pressure by as much as 11 millimeters of mercury.(Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury for both diastolic and systolic pressure).
Watching your sodium intake has other benefits too. Some studies have linked sodium to worsened asthma and an increased risk of stomach cancer; and, because sodium increases the excretion of calcium in urine, it could cause bone loss and kidney stones.
Because most sodium comes from processed, packaged, and restaurant foods, it’s hard to cut back to 1500 mg without cooking from scratch most of the time and eating more fresh foods. For people with normal blood pressure and no risk factors, a more modest goal of 2300mg daily might help the upward creep of blood pressure that tends to occur with age.
Making the extra effort to cut back even further is warranted if you’re African-American or have a family history of high blood pressure, or if your blood pressure is high or high-normal.
Consumer Reports on Health
Follow us on