Bone Mineral Density Increased By High Potassium Foods

There is a lot of evidence of the favorable effect of high potassium foods on bone mineral density (BMD). Two countries improved the potassium to sodium ratio in their food to reduce the high rate of strokes in their population. More recently it became apparent that this change in diet could also improve bone mineral density also.

Photo by Jennifer Conley

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. They compared the potassium in their diet to their bone mineral density. The researchers divided the women into 4 groups according to how much potassium they were getting. The studied them for 5 years. After the first year they measured the women's hip BMD with DXA. 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 the wrist and shin BMD with a similar test. The women with the greatest potassium intake had 6% denser hips, 4% greater total body bone density, and 7% denser shinbones than the women with the least intake.

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 or subtract sodium to the diet of the research subjects. 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

If you are looking for tables of foods with their potassium and sodium content, you can find a list of them in the List Of Posts tab. Just look under the type of food group and 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.