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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Washington Study Finds WHO Goals on Sodium, Potassium Not Feasible

A new study led by the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington School of Public Health says implementing World Health Organization guidelines on potassium and sodium intake “will be an enormous challenge for global public health.”

Adam Drewnowski
[Photo: Dr. Adam Drewnowski]

To lower our risk of heart disease and stroke, the WHO recommends consumption of no more than 2,000 mg of sodium a day (less than a teaspoon) and at least 3,510 mg of potassium daily.

First author Dr. Adam Drewnowski, professor of epidemiology, and colleagues estimated that only 0.3 percent of Americans and 0.5 percent of French achieve those goals. Only 0.15 percent of Mexicans reach the dietary targets, while only 0.1 percent of British do. The study was published in the journal BMJ Open.

“The data confirm that we eat too much sodium and not enough potassium,” Dr. Drewnowski said. “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.”

To reach the recommended potassium level, a person would have to eat about six potatoes a day or drink nine cups of milk.

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