The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently updated sodium and potassium Adequate Intake, or AI, levels for healthy people. The revised recommendations, which hadn’t been reviewed since being established in 2005, include decreased sodium AIs for children 1 to 13, increased sodium AIs for adults 51 and older, and an overall decrease in potassium for people 1 and older. Some recommendations have not changed, such as the sodium AI for people between 14 and 50 years old. Whether these new guidelines will impact daily values on Nutrition Facts labels is yet to be determined.
Many of the revisions reflect new research as well as a change in approach. For example, sodium no longer has an Upper Tolerable Intake Level, or UL, because there is not enough evidence to quantify toxic intakes separate from chronic disease risk in generally healthy people. There also is limited evidence for establishing an AI of less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day for adults 51 and older. The new sodium AIs for children were based on Estimated Energy Requirements and sodium intakes in breastfed infants. One of the biggest changes is a new DRI category: Chronic Disease Risk Reduction Intake, or CDRR. For sodium, this is the amount above which reduction is expected to reduce chronic disease risk within a healthy population.
Lower potassium AIs are a result of two nationally representative surveys. AIs for adults were based on potassium intakes of men and women with normal blood pressure and no reported history of cardiovascular disease. Previous potassium AIs were based on a variety of studies including supplementation trials. AIs for infants were based on potassium intake estimates of breastfed infants. Due to lack of evidence, a CDRR was not established for potassium.
Most Americans consume too much sodium and not enough potassium. Therefore, these recommendations are important for healthy people to help reduce the risk of chronic disease and even more critical for people taking medications that affect potassium, those with excessive sweat loss and people with a chronic condition or disease such as Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and hypertension. More research is needed in many areas including sodium sensitivity, the sodium-potassium relationship, and the relationship between these micronutrients and energy intake.
To learn about the update to sodium and potassium DRIs and the expanded DRI model, which includes the CDRR, visit nationalacademies.org/DRIExplainer.
|Potassium DRIs in milligrams per day|
|Males 9-13 years||2,500||4,500|
|Females 9-13 years||2,300||4,500|
|Males 14-18 years||3,000||4,700|
|Females 14-18 years||2,300||4,700|
|Males over 19 years||3,400||4,700|
|Females over 19 years||2,600||4,700|
|Pregnancy 14-18 years||2,600||4,700|
|Pregnancy 19-50 years||2,900||4,700|
|Lactation 14-18 years||2,500||5,100|
|Lactation 19-50 years||2,800||5,100|
|Sodium DRIs in milligrams per day||CDRR in milligrams per day|
|1-3 years||800||1,000||Reduce intake if above 1,200|
|4-8 years||1,000||1,200||Reduce intake if above 1,500|
|9-13 years||1,200||1,500||Reduce intake if above 1,800|
|14-18 years||1,500||1,500||Reduce intake if above 2,300|
|19-50 years||1,500||1,500||Reduce intake if above 2,300|
|51-70 years||1,500||1,300||Reduce intake if above 2,300|
|71+ years||1,500||1,200||Reduce intake if above 2,300|
|Pregnancy||1,500||1,500||Reduce intake if above 2,300|
|Lactation||1,500||1,500||Reduce intake if above 2,300|
Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. The National Academies website. Published March 5, 2019. Accessed April 16, 2019.
Hoy MK, Goldman JD, Murayi T, Rhodes DG, Moshfegh AJ. Sodium Intake of the U.S. Population: What We Eat In America, NHANES 2007-2008. Published October, 2011. Accessed April 16, 2019.
Hoy MK, Goldman JD. Potassium Intake of the U.S. Population: What We Eat In America, NHANES 2009-2010. Published September, 2012. Accessed April 16, 2019.
Institute of Medicine. 2005. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.