When I wrote my dissertation for my naturopathic doctor's degree, I wanted to research and write on one of the greatest challenges to aging — preserving muscle mass. I chose this topic because it's a huge problem that leads to falls, fractures, and a host of other health problems. In fact, those who hold onto their muscle the best tend to avoid many of the health challenges that hit us later in life.
Unfortunately, our diet tends to encourage muscle loss. Research has shown that when your body has an acidic pH, it promotes muscle wasting. Eating heavy sugar, processed grains, and carbohydrates, leads to a heavy acid load. A few weeks ago, I showed you how this can cause your iodine levels to drop and your thyroid to malfunction. But there's another mineral that can help reverse all of this.
The mineral potassium is an alkaline mineral. When people have an acidic pH, they usually have a potassium deficiency. This can lead to sciatica (back pain), allergies, and muscle wasting. With this in mind, a group of researchers set out to determine if taking potassium could preserve your lean body mass. Here's what they found.
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The researchers looked at 384 subjects over the age of 64 who they were already following for vitamin D and calcium intake. They measured their 24-hour elimination of potassium and scientifically measured their lean body mass. Potassium is a marker. If you are eliminating lots of potassium, it means that you're getting plenty in your diet so you don't need to retain it. If you are acidic and need to hold on to potassium, you won't be urinating out so much. And the researchers found that the more potassium excreted in a day, the greater their lean body mass.
During the three years they conducted the study, lean body mass increased an average 2.6%. The authors concluded that "higher intake of foods rich in potassium, such as fruit and vegetables, may favor the preservation of muscle mass in older men and women."
When eating a really high-quality alkaline diet, you're better able to preserve your muscle and other tissues. That's largely because an alkaline diet preserves your minerals. If you're eating a diet high in grains, processed foods, and carbs, then make sure you're taking enough potassium to keep your muscles strong. Usually, 99 mg daily is enough. But some people may need more.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening, ND
Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Mar;87(3):662-5.