Nutrition News: Diabetes & New Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI’s) for Sodium, Potassium & Water

Confused about nutrition advice? Join the club. Even the establishment of “established” recommendations has changed. Since 1997, researchers from the United States and Canada have joined the National Academy of Sciences to release a whole new set of dietary guidelines–Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI’s). These recommendations specify nutrient levels to prevent deficiencies as well as the amount needed to prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Here are a few highlights from the latest report on sodium, potassium, and water:


Excess salt (sodium chloride) contributes to high blood pressure and can complicate diabetes. This report lowers the “Adequate Intake” of sodium to 1500 milligrams (1.5 grams) a day for young adults and 1300 milligrams (1.3 grams) daily for older adults. Time to put away the salt shaker—one teaspoon of salt contains about 2000 milligrams (2 grams) of sodium.)


Too little potassium contributes to high blood pressure, bone loss, and heart disease—all risk factors for people with diabetes. If you have normal kidney function, an Adequate Intake (AI) of potassium is 4.7 grams (4700 milligrams) per day for adults. Vegetables, fruit, legumes, low fat milk and yogurt are healthful sources of potassium that can neutralize acids in the blood to help prevent bone loss and kidney stones.


Women and men with normal kidney function need 9 and 13 cups of fluid a day, respectively, to prevent dehydration, according to this report. What about caffeine and alcohol? “While consumption of beverages containing caffeine and alcohol have been shown in some studies to have diuretic effects,” the report states, “available information indicates that this may be transient in nature, and that such beverages can contribute to total water intake.” People with diabetes may need to take this last recommendation with a grain of “salt”(sic).

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