Potassium Sodium Ratio Is Main Benefit Of Fruits And Vegetables

Government health agencies highly recommend eating more fruits and vegetables. However, the agencies do this without considering important aspects of the fruit and vegetables. One such aspect is food processing.

It is critical how foods are processed. Processing is critical because it affects the health benefits of foods. And a critical benefit often affected is the potassium sodium ratio.

Vegetable consumption per capita, OWID
2013 Vegetable Consumption Per Capita

Fruits And Vegetables Are Important

Multiple studies show that those populations eating more fruits and vegetables have less hypertension and less cardiovascular disease. Consequently, researchers have done multiple studies to try to determine what aspect of fruits and vegetables provides these benefits. The researchers have studied one component after another.

But researchers usually miss the very basic, core aspect of most fruits and vegetables that provides these benefits. This aspect has been known for over two decades. Yet, it is ignored.

Among the factors studied in fruits and vegetables, other than this core aspect, are such substances as fiber, polyunsaturated fats, vitamins and polyphenols. Studies show all these factors to be helpful for cardiovascular health and reduction of hypertension.

What Is Lacking In Most Food Studies

However, these other factors have not been studied in relation to the potassium sodium ratio. No one has determined how much of the benefit of fruits and vegetables comes from the potassium sodium ratio, and how much comes from these other constituents. By not controlling for the ratio, researchers may credit too much benefit to these other constituents.

The critical factor for hypertension prevention is the potassium sodium ratio. Consequently, this ratio should be controlled for in any study of these other food constituents.

Potassium Sodium Ratio Of The Diet

The potassium sodium ratio in the diet determines the potassium sodium ratio inside a person's cells. This ratio inside the cell determines the voltage across all the cell's membranes, including the mitochondrial membrane.

Intracellular Effect

Multiple studies show that accumulation of calcium inside the mitochondrion results in cell death. And calcium gets inside the mitochondrion much more readily when the potassium inside the cell is too low. When the potassium inside the cell is too low, the voltage across the mitochondrial membrane allows calcium inside the mitochondrion too quickly. Then the mitochondrial matrix swells. Subsequently, molecules that need to react are too far apart to transfer electrons. Hence, energy production stops. The cell without energy dies, usually forming scar tissue.

How Other Substances Help

Some of these other substances, such as polyunsaturated fats or polyphenols, change the configuration of various channels across cell membranes, including the mitochondrial membrane. As a result, there is a slight increase, or decrease, in the ability of potassium and calcium to cross the membranes. This is a universal finding among the substances studied to date. There may be other ways these substances aid health. But until research takes a systems approach, we will never know how important these other ways are.

These other substances may have important effects. However, the potassium sodium ratio is critical. It controls the voltage across membranes. This voltage opens and closes some of the cross-membrane channels.

Additionally, it changes the configuration of other proteins. And this configuration change determines how easily various chemical reactions between molecules in the cell occur. For example, the charge controls how easily the ligand dependent channels open. These are the channels across membranes that open and close depending on what molecules attach to them.

So it is important that the food we eat in a day provide us with enough potassium, and not too much sodium. Otherwise, our cells will not function optimally. The charge inside and outside the cell will not be right. As a consequence, the chemical reactions inside the cell will falter. The cells will die. And inflammation and scarring will follow. In particular, this sequence of events was discussed in the posts about hypertensive heart disease.

Effect Of Poor Processing

Many types of food processing subtract potassium or add sodium. For fruits and vegetables, this processing winds up with fruits and vegetables lacking the health benefits of their natural state. Some common examples are boiling and canning. Often, boiling removes potassium from food. And boiling in salt water adds sodium.

Health officials do not emphasize the proper preparation of fruits and vegetables. Improper preparation means fruits and vegetables do not retain their healthy effects. If they are boiled in salt water, such as often happens with canning or with home cooking, or if they have multiple additives, fruits and vegetables will not add to health as much as they could.

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