DRI Update for Sodium and Potassium
An expert committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which included Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, Gershoff Professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and Executive Editor of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, recently reviewed the scientific evidence in order to update the official U.S. and Canadian Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for sodium and potassium. Sodium and potassium are interrelated, essential nutrients that are vital to many normal body functions, including nerve signal transmission, muscle contraction, and fluid balance. Low potassium intakes and high sodium intakes have been linked to risk of chronic disease, particularly cardiovascular disease. The new level of Adequate Intake (AI) for potassium—the minimum intake level estimated to be adequate for apparently healthy adults—was determined to be 2,600 milligrams (mg) per day for women and 3,400 mg per day for men, each a decrease from the prior value of 4,700 mg per day. The new AI for sodium for adolescents and adults was set at 1,500 mg per day. And, for the first time, the committee established a Chronic Disease Risk Reduction maximum intake level for sodium of 2,300 mg per day, based on reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure in a healthy population. DRIs are important guideposts to help us achieve and maintain good health. It is better to get less sodium from foods, and more potassium. Fruits and vegetables are generally excellent sources of potassium, while sodium is often highest when used as a preservative, such as in bread and ready-to-eat foods, and also many restaurant meals.