Low-Sodium Food Additives May Be Unsafe for Kidney Patients

High potassium found in reduced sodium meat and poultry may be harmful to kidney disease patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Eating less salt can have health benefits like lowering high blood pressure. But some low-salt foods may have additives that make them unsafe for people with chronic kidney disease.

When sodium (salt) is removed from foods, manufacturers may replace it with additives like phosphate and potassium for flavor. In a new study, a Canadian research team looked at the levels of these additives in low-sodium meats.

They found that low-sodium meat and poultry contained much more potassium than products not low in sodium.

People with kidney disease are advised to limit potassium in their diet because their kidneys may not be able to process high levels of it. The study team recommended that these patients "should limit their intake of sodium reduced meat and poultry products."

Arti Sharma Parpia, RD, from St. Michael’s Hospital, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and team analyzed 19 low-sodium meat and poultry products. Their analysis showed that low-sodium meat and poultry contained up to 55 percent less sodium than foods without reduced sodium.

Most of the low-sodium products (63 percent) contained potassium. The study authors noted that only 25 percent of foods that did not have reduced sodium contained added potassium.

The study authors found much more potassium in the low-sodium foods than in foods not low in sodium. The extra potassium amounted to an extra serving of high-potassium food, such as leafy greens, squash or bananas.

“Patients with chronic kidney disease need to be aware of the potential for higher potassium content in sodium-reduced foods, as they are educated to follow a low sodium diet," Parpia said in a press release. She said these patients "may inadvertently choose sodium-reduced foods without realizing the risk of an increased potassium load from additives."

Chronic kidney disease is a progressive loss of kidney function over time. It can lead to kidney failure, which can be deadly.

This research was presented Nov. 15 at the American Society of Nephrology Kidney Week 2014 in Philadelphia. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

The Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research funded the research. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 14, 2014
Last Updated:
November 17, 2014