Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Potassium independence


So far, the U.S. presidential candidates have blown a lot of hot air about energy independence, but have failed to address a much more difficult problem facing Americans: potassium independence. According to the National Academies, "The typical Western diet is high in salt and low in potassium -- the opposite of what evidence shows is optimal for good health and reducing the risks of chronic disease."

I see the major culprit here as Western reliance on foreign bananas. The U.S. accounts for roughly a third of world banana imports, sending untold millions overseas. As early as 1964, Harvard business professor James Houck was ringing the alarm bells about this issue, but his warnings went sadly unheeded. Now, instead of having invested in a substantial domestic banana market, Americans are at the mercy of largely unstable regions.

The only response that makes sense now is to begin a major overhaul of how we produce and consume potassium in this country. To put it bluntly, we are addicted to bananas.

The Linus Pauling Institute reports, however, that prunes and prune juice are a much better source of potassium than bananas. The federal government needs to foster alternative sources of potassium such as prunes by subsidizing their production and launching educational campaigns to help consumers make better choices. Obama and McCain need to support such a plan. Together, we can keep America free.