Sodium and Potassium Consumption in Jamaica

More evidence to support the need to lower sodium consumption and increase potassium consumption in Jamaica.

By Joette McKenzie and Trevor Ferguson

A large body of research highlights the damaging effects of high sodium in the diet. The risk of hypertension and several other heart-related diseases show strong associations with high levels of sodium intake. On the other hand, higher potassium intake has been associated with lower blood pressure. Considering this, the World Health Organization recommends that individuals worldwide reduce sodium consumption and increase potassium intake to improve health.

In a recently published paper entitled “Sodium and Potassium Consumption in Jamaica: National Estimates and Associated Factors from the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey 2016–2017" researchers from the Caribbean Institute for Health Research and the Ministry of Health and Wellness show that most free-living Jamaican adults have diets that are high in sodium and low in potassium.

Using international formulae to estimate the levels of sodium and potassium consumed over 24 hours from spot urine samples, the researchers found that two-thirds of Jamaicans had high sodium consumption while more than three-quarters of the population had low potassium consumption. The difference between males and females was significant. More males had high sodium levels when compared to women while more women had lower levels of potassium.

The recommended sodium intake by the World Health Organization is less than two grammes (2 g) per day yet the estimated levels of sodium for men was approximately 4 grammes among Jamaican men and 3 grammes among women. For potassium, the recommended intake by the WHO is three and a half grammes (3.5 g), yet potassium intake for men was just over 2 grammes and for women, less than 2 grammes.

When the levels were assessed by age categories, the researchers found that as persons got older, their sodium levels were lower (see figure). In terms of other health conditions, those who were current smokers or categorized as obese had higher sodium levels compared to those who weren’t. Sodium consumption was also higher in men with hypertension.

Given the adverse effects of high sodium consumption and low potassium consumption, the researchers recommended that population-based strategies should be developed and implemented to address this and thereby reduce cardiovascular disease in Jamaica.

Full study results can be found at: Sodium and potassium consumption in Jamaica: National estima... : Medicine (

Figure 1: Prevalence of High Urine Sodium Excretion


Source article:
Ferguson TS, Younger-Coleman NOM, Webster-Kerr K, Tulloch-Reid MK, Bennett NR, Davidson T, Grant AS, Gordon-Johnson K-AM, Govia I, Soares-Wynter S, McKenzie JA, Walker E, Cunningham-Myrie CA, Anderson SG, Blake AL, Ho J, Stephenson R, Edwards SE, McFarlane SR, Spence S, Wilks RJ. Sodium and potassium consumption in Jamaica: National estimates and associated factors from the Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey 2016–2017. Medicine. 2023;102(40):e35308.
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