Are the WHO Guidelines on Sodium, Potassium Consumption Unfeasible for Most?

Are the WHO Guidelines on Sodium, Potassium Consumption Unfeasible for Most?
Are the WHO Guidelines on Sodium, Potassium Consumption Unfeasible for Most?

Are the World Health Organization (WHO)'s dietary goals unfeasible when it comes to consumption of sodium and potassium? Research in the journal BMJ Open suggests yes, as the majority of participants in a multinational study failed to meet the WHO sodium-potassium targets.

Adam Drewnowski, PhD, from the University of Washington, and colleagues compared WHO guidelines for sodium (<2000mg/daily) and potassium (≥3,150mg/daily) to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 2007–2010) for the United States, the Encuesta Nacional de Salud y Nutrición 2012 for Mexico, the Individual and National Study on Food Consumption (INCA2) for France, and the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) for the United Kingdom. The results are as follows:

  • In the U.S., 86.2% failed to meet the WHO sodium goal and 80.4% failed to meet the WHO potassium goal. Joint compliance with both goals was estimated at 0.3%.
  • In Mexico, 44% failed to meet the WHO sodium goal and 95% failed to meet the WHO potassium goal. Joint compliance with both goals was estimated at 0.15%.
  • In France, 89.1% failed to meet the WHO sodium goal and 77% failed to meet the potassium goal Joint compliance with both goals was estimated at 0.5%.
  • In the U.K., 83.4% failed to meet the sodium goal and 91.9% failed to meet the potassium goal. Joint compliance with both goals was estimated at 0.1%.

RELATED: Sodium Content Too High in Over Half of Packaged Foods

The data did indicate that that consumption of sodium exceeds the WHO guidelines while potassium consumption falls below the recommendations. Dr. Drewnowski proposed that because both sodium and potassium are found in many of the same foods, reformulating processed foods to lower the sodium content could be one strategy; however, global guidelines such as the ones from the WHO must consider global food patterns and set reasonable targets based on research from low- middle- and high-income countries.

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