The average intake of sodium (Na) is 3000-4500 mg/day in industrialized countries, while the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) is only 1500 mg. The current dietary intake suggested to pose no health problem is only 2500 mg/day. Current intakes of potassium (K), calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) are low, often 30-50% of suggested intakes. These elements are important for cardiac output and blood pressure control. Hypertension is the body’s method of making sure Na is removed by the kidneys when Na intake is high.
High Na intake and low K, Ca and Mg intake cause high blood pressure in much of the population. Reducing Na intake and increasing K, Ca and Mg intake (as in “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” or DASH) gives excellent results in reducing hypertension. DASH diets include fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts.
The authors suggest the use of tax incentives to encourage the producers of processed foods to lower the Na and raise the K, Ca and Mg contents of foods which are consumed in large amounts. Na lowering works best when used in combination with increasing intakes of Ca, Mg, and K.
The modern processed diet contains only about 24% of the K found in our natural diet. Potassium works to reduce blood pressure by reducing the sympathetic nervous system activity and by increasing the sensitivity to nitric oxide relaxation of the blood vessels.
Current information on genetics indicates that the human genome has changed little in the past 100,000 years and is compatible with unprocessed, mixed foods of plant and animal origin. Replacement of the current processed diets with natural, unprocessed foods would have dramatic effects on blood pressures. The widespread use of processed foods is increasing and the use of more natural, unprocessed, foods is decreasing in industrialized countries.
CONCLUSION: The high use of processed foods in today’s diets contributes to high rates of hypertension in the general population. Processed foods should contain reduced Na and more K, Ca and Mg.
NOTE: Read about the improved potassium content of the Paleolithic Diet.
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