High Salt, Low Potassium Could Spell Early Death
Getting too much salt and too little potassium could lead to an early death, a new federal study suggests. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracked the diets of more than 12,000 adults for 15 years, and analyzed their rates of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and death. They found that a high sodium intake (more than 5,000 milligrams a day) was linked to a higher likelihood of death from any cause during the study period, while a high potassium intake (more than 4,069 mg. daily) was associated with a lower risk of death. People who had the highest sodium-potassium ratios—meaning they consumed more sodium than potassium—were more than twice as likely to die from a heart attack than those with the lowest ratios, according to findings published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Potassium helps counter salt's ability to raise blood pressure, and it plays a role in decreasing bone loss and reducing the risk of developing kidney stones. "From a public health point of view, reduced sodium intake accompanied by increased potassium intake could achieve greater health benefits than restricting sodium alone," according to the study. Potassium-packed foods include broccoli, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, bananas, and lima beans.
Best Diets Methodology: How U.S. News Rated Them
Diets come and go, teasing and tempting with visions of that new, hot, slimmed-down body sculpted in a flash from the old, formerly pudgy and mirror-averse You. Eat what you want! Pounds melt away! The reality, as legions of frustrated dieters can affirm, is that dieting is hard and that most diets don't work. Some, in fact, could put your health at risk. Getting at the facts about diets and dieting has long been grueling enough to burn off a pound or two by itself.
Now, though, Best Diets cuts through the clutter of claims and half-truths to deliver the facts about 20 diets, including many, such as Weight Watchers, that are household names and others, such as the DASH diet, that should be.
A U.S. News team spent six months researching the diets, mining medical journals, government reports, and other sources. An in-depth profile was then drawn up for every diet that explains how it works, whether its claims add up or fall short, and what risks it might pose, along with insights into living on the diet, not just reading about it.
A carefully selected panel of 22 recognized experts in diet and nutrition and specialists in diabetes and heart disease reviewed the U.S. News profiles. Then the experts rated each diet from 1 to 5 in seven categories: short-term weight loss, long-term weight loss, how easy it is to follow, its nutritional completeness, its safety, its ability to prevent or manage diabetes, and its ability to prevent or manage heart disease. U.S. News also asked the panelists to comment on which aspects of each diet that they particularly liked or disliked and to weigh in on what they think people considering the diet should know. [Read more: Best Diets Methodology: How We Rated Them.]
8 Ways to Cut Salt Out of Your Diet
Here are some suggestions for cutting back on salt, provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Stephen Havas, vice president for science, quality, and public health at the American Medical Association:
Cook from scratch so you know exactly what's in your food. You might be surprised at the sodium content included in that prepackaged meal you love: The CSPI has analyzed a whole range of processed foods and has found ready-made roasted carved turkey containing as much as 5,410 milligrams of sodium per serving; half of a ready-made pepperoni pizza might contain as much as 1,350 milligrams.
When you do opt for ready-made pizza or other packaged foods, choose products that say they're sodium free, very low in sodium, light in sodium, or unsalted or have low or reduced sodium. If you can't find many, Havas advises asking your local grocery store to start stocking them. Even bread and cereal may surprise you: The CSPI found whole-wheat bread containing anywhere from 150 to 190 milligrams of sodium per slice, depending on the brand; white bread had 115 to 230 milligrams per slice.