There is a lot of evidence of the favorable effect of high potassium foods on bone mineral density (BMD). For example, two countries improved the potassium to sodium ratio in their food. Consequently, this reduced the high rate of strokes in each of their populations. More recently it became apparent that this change in diet could improve bone mineral density also.
Two Countries Lead The Way
While the rest of the world has been going in the wrong direction, Finland and Japan increased the potassium and reduced the sodium in their food. We discussed in some past posts the improvements in health they have seen. This includes a huge reduction in hip fractures in Finland compared to the rest of Scandinavia.
Although there are a few other countries following the lead of Finland and Japan, most countries are going in the other direction. So we have to look to other types of studies to see the improvements in bone mineral density that a high potassium sodium ratio can provide.
Bone Mineral Density And Potassium
In 2009 a study (1) from Australia studied 266 women aged 70 to 80 years of age. The researchers compared the potassium in their diet to their bone mineral density. Subsequently, the researchers divided the women into 4 groups according to how much potassium they were getting. They studied them for 5 years. After the first year they measured the women's hip BMD with DXA. In brief, the women with the greatest potassium intake had hips that were 5% denser than the women with the least potassium intake.
After 5 years, they measured the hip and total body BMD with DXA. And they measured the wrist and shin BMD with a similar test. As a result, the women with the greatest potassium intake had 6% denser hips than the women with the least intake. Additionally, they had 4% greater total body bone density, and 7% denser shinbones.
There have not been many similar studies that followed a single group of people for several years. In the national studies, people who were in their 70s in the 1980s were not the same people as those in their 70s in 2010. Just because the nation's diet changed during that period does not mean that diet was the reason bone density was greater in 2010. Having a study that follows the same people to show an increase in bone mineral density in those eating food with more potassium throws a little more weight behind the theory.
Another way to alter the dietary potassium sodium ratio is to artificially add potassium to, or subtract sodium from, the diet of the research subjects. Then, if there are indications that the bone is getting denser from this manipulation, that would add more weight to the theory of the dietary potassium sodium ratio being an important factor in osteoporosis. There have been a fair number of these type studies that we will discuss in the future.
To Find Food Tables
Looking for tables of foods with their potassium and sodium content? You can find links to them in the “Links to Food Potassium Tables” tab at the top of this page. Just look under the type of food group you are interested in. Then click on the link to find the table that should list the specific food.
1. The effects of high potassium consumption on bone mineral density in a prospective cohort study of elderly postmenopausal women. Zhu K, Devine A, Prince RL. Osteoporos Int. 2009 Feb;20(2):335-40. doi: 10.1007/s00198-008-0666-3. Epub 2008 Jun 25.