Potassium's multiple positives

by Jeff Gelski
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The processed foods industry may recognize potassium for how it partners with chloride in sodium reduction applications. Yet potassium boast other attributes. Although insufficient in American diets, it may have a beneficial effect on blood pressure and enhance beverages in various ways.

Potassium’s positives may draw the attention of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Magnesium, vitamin D and calcium are other fortifying ingredients that the D.G.A.C. may discuss.

This past year the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) released a report that found increased potassium intake reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure in adults and was beneficial in terms of blood pressure.

The W.H.O. report suggested a potassium intake of at least 90 mmol/day (3,510 mg per day) for adults, which was defined as people age 16 and over. The W.H.O. said the recommended intake should be adjusted for children (age 2-15) based on the energy requirements relative to those of adults.

Intake of potassium is inadequate, according to a 2005 report from the Institute of Medicine. It found an adequate intake (A.I.) of 4.7 grams (120 mmol) per day for adults possibly would help lower blood pressure, blunt the adverse effects of sodium chloride on blood pressure, reduce the risk of kidney stones and possibly reduce bone loss. According to the I.O.M., median daily intake in the United States was about 2.9 grams to 3.2 grams for men and 2.1 grams to 2.3 grams for women.

“Diets in North America are sorely lacking in potassium,” said Nadeen Myers, food ingredients specialist for ICL Performance Products, St. Louis.

The company offers such potassium ingredients as Benephos, a mixed cation polyphosphate with both potassium and sodium. Fruit juices, teas, meal replacement beverages, soft drinks and dairy beverages are all potential applications.

In isotonic beverages, potassium polyphosphate has been shown to enhance flavor and sweetness, Ms. Myers said, and added potassium helps muscles relax.

Since potassium passes through the body so quickly, no upper limits have been set for its consumption, she said.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, New York, healthy kidneys keep the right amount of potassium in the body. When people have kidneys that are not healthy, they may need to limit certain foods that may increase potassium levels in the blood to an unhealthy level.

Other nutrients of concern

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans said intake levels of potassium were low enough to be a concern as were intake levels of calcium, fiber, magnesium and vitamins A, C and E. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended people choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and vitamin D, which the guidelines said were nutrients of concern in American diets.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans Advisory Committee for 2015 has met once, in June of this year.

“Publications in the past five years continue to show the persistence of inadequate nutrient intakes (calcium, vitamin D, dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin E),” said Aparna Parikh, head of communications and marketing services for DSM Nutritional Products. “In the past, the D.G.A.C has identified food fortification to resolve these shortfall nutrients. Presumably, the 2015 D.G.A.C. will strive to find food-based solutions as well. For subpopulations with specific nutrient needs, e.g., pregnant and lactating women, they may recommend dietary supplementation.”

Ms. Myers said magnesium may receive attention. The mineral helps in the absorption of calcium in the bones and may provide benefits in type 2 diabetes. Magnesium may be added to drinks for mineral fortification and to nutritional bars.

Vitamin D was a focus when Vision Critical fielded a survey on July 3 of this year that involved 1,005 Americans age 18 and over. When asked what played “a great or moderate role in maintaining or improving their health,” 88% of respondents said calcium. Following calcium was vitamin D (85%), fiber (85%), B vitamins (82%), whole grains (80%) and iron (78%).

Many Americans associated vitamin D with milk (69%), which was followed by yogurt (39%) and orange juice (23%). Bread, at 8%, still may help increase intake of vitamin D, said Wendy J. Dahl, assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The Food and Drug Administration recently allowed 100 grams of bread, or about 2 slices of bread, to contain as much as 400 international units (I.U.s) of vitamin D. The maximum previously was 90 I.U.s of vitamin D per 100 grams.

“These (survey) findings together with the possibility for bakers to do a nutrient content claim and label their bread as ‘excellent source of vitamin D,’ we are confident more bakers will take advantage of this nutritional edge when revising their bread label declaration or developing new products,” said Gary Edwards, president of Lallemand American Yeast.

Customized premixes may assist in getting the desired blend of ingredients into products. DSM last year expanded in that area by acquiring Fortitech, Inc.

“Customized premixes that deliver strategic nutrition is all we do,” said Joe Buron, regional general manager for Fortitech Premixes, North America. “Our formulation team works with each customer to understand all aspects of the finished product. Fortification is so much more than adding a vitamin or mineral to a product. We need to know the end product’s matrix, how the intended ingredients will interact, as well as, the appropriate market form necessary to create a successful solution.”

Watson, Inc., West Haven, Conn., offers solutions for micronutrients. When a micronutrient is added to a batch for a product, it may be difficult to distribute such a miniscule quantity evenly. In response, Watson offers trituration, which is the process by which a micronutrient is standardized on a carrier for better distribution. Watson’s triturations most commonly are used for vitamin B12.
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