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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Food Surveys Research Group

Title: Sodium and potassium intake among U.S. adults, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003-2008

item Cogswell, Mary
item Zhang, Zefeng
item Carriquiry, Alicia
item Gunn, Janelle
item Kuklina, Elena
item Saydah, Sharon
item Yang, Qhanhe
item Moshfegh, Alanna

Submitted to: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/27/2012
Publication Date: 8/1/2012
Publication URL:
Citation: Cogswell, M.E., Zhang, Z., Carriquiry, A.L., Gunn, J.P., Kuklina, E.V., Saydah, S.H., Yang, Q., Moshfegh, A.J. 2012. Sodium and potassium intake among U.S. adults, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003-2008. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.112.034413.

Interpretive Summary: The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for America, the Federal Government’s nutrition education message to the public for healthy diets, recommend that Americans reduce their sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg and choose foods that contain potassium. These recommendations are designed to decrease the risk of hypertension and subsequent heart disease and stroke. National dietary intake data from What We Eat In America, NHANES 2003-2008, collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services, show that 90.7% of adults age 20 years and older had diets that exceed the recommendation of no more than 2,300 mg of sodium. For potassium, the data show the opposite in relation to recommendations. Less than 2% of adults and approximately 5% of men consumed less than 4,700 mg of potassium, the amount recommended for adults. The information in the research paper is informative for health and nutrition professionals, educators, and others who are interested in dietary intake data of the U.S. population. It is also useful to those who are developing education programs and policy initiatives to lower sodium intake, and for monitoring changes in sodium and potassium intakes for the adult population.

Technical Abstract: The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend Americans reduce sodium intake and choose foods that contain potassium to decrease the risk of hypertension and subsequent heart disease and stroke. We estimated the distributions of usual daily sodium and potassium intakes by sociodemographic and health characteristics relative to current guidelines. We used 24-hour dietary recalls and other data from 12,581 adults aged >=20 years who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2003-2008. Estimates of sodium and potassium intake were adjusted for within-individual, day-to-day variation using measurement error models. Standard errors and ninety-five percent confidence intervals were assessed using jack-knife replicate weights. Overall, 99.4% (95% confidence interval [CI], 99.3%, 99.5%) and 90.7% (89.6%, 91.8%) of U.S. adults consumed >1,500 mg and >=2,300 mg sodium daily, respectively. Among U.S. adults recommended to reduce sodium to 1,500 mg daily (i.e., African-Americans, aged >=51 years, or persons with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease), overall, 98.8% (98.4%, 99.2%) consumed >1,500 mg daily and 60.4% consume more than double the recommendation, >3,000 mg daily. Regardless of sex, age, race-ethnicity, income, education, body mass index, hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, more than 84% of adults consumed sodium in excess of guidelines. Overall, less than 2% of U.S. adults and aproximately 5% of U.S. men consumed >=4,700 mg potassium daily, i.e., meeting 2010 Dietary Guidelines for potassium. The vast majority of U.S. adults consume too much sodium and too little potassium.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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