Tag Archives: potassium

Salt and CancerWhen I was in the middle of my academic career during the mid to late 1990’s (I retired from Colorado State University in December 2013,) I had the great pleasure of corresponding with Birger Jansson, Ph.D. at the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Dr. Jansson was a Professor in the Department of Biomathematics at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and worked as a biomathematician for the National Large Bowel Cancer Project (NLBCP) between 1973 and 1983 when President Nixon launched his war against cancer in the early 1970s. Birger was known internationally for his brilliant mathematical modeling of all types of cancer, but today he is perhaps best known for his epidemiological and review publications demonstrating how a high salt (sodium) diet promotes all types of cancer, whereas a high potassium diet impedes cancer (1-8).

My correspondence with Dr. Jansson came about from my interest in the reported low incidence of all types of cancers in hunter-gatherers (9-17) who were essentially salt free populations. From animal and tissue experiments, I had long suspected that salt added to diet acted as a promoter of various cancers whereas a high potassium intake retarded cancer development. My correspondence with Birger further confirmed the evidence I had compiled.

Almost exactly 20 years ago in May of 1997 (see attached PDF file), Birger sent me his unpublished and unedited book entitled, Sodium: “NO!” Potassium: “Yes!” Sodium increases and potassium decreases cancer risks. This book represented Birger’s scientific work, from 1981 to 1997, documenting the relationship between dietary sodium and potassium (1-8). The data from his book includes hundreds of scientific references from 1) epidemiological studies, 2) animal studies, 3) tissue studies, and a limited number of 4) randomized controlled human trials with various disease endpoints and markers.

Unfortunately, my correspondence with Birger ceased shortly after he sent me his unpublished and unedited book manuscript on May 10, 1997. I only recently discovered that Birger died (May 23, 1998) about a year to the date after our last correspondence at age 77 as a Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

I am in a unique position, in that I probably have one of the few copies of Dr. Jansson’s unpublished book in existence. The book runs about 350 pages in length and is comprised of 10 chapters. My copy clearly was produced as a Xeroxed copy of Birger’s hand typed manuscript (one sided, double spaced pages) and spiral bound with plastic. From my correspondence with Birger (May 10, 1997), you can see that he was contemplating publication of his book in the popular literature, but unfortunately it never happened with his untimely death in 1998.

I have always felt a debt to this great scientist, and after consultation with my colleague Anthony Sebastian (M.D.) at the University of California, San Francisco, we concluded that Birger would have been happy to see that his unpublished book was finally made known to the scientific and world communities.

In this blog I have included a single chapter (Chapter II of Birger’s book), entitled “Human Diet Before Modern Times” that I thought would be of interest to the “Paleo Community” and to worldwide scientists as well. Enjoy!



1. Jansson B. Potassium, sodium, and cancer: a review. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol. 1996;15(2-4):65-73

2. Jansson B. Dietary, total body, and intracellular potassium-to-sodium ratios and their influence on cancer. Cancer Detect Prev. 1990;14(5):563-5

3. Jansson B. Intracellular electrolytes and their role in cancer etiology. In Thompson JR, Brown BW, eds. Cancer modeling. New York: Marcel Dekker 1987:1-59.

4. Jansson B. Geographic cancer risk and intracellular potassium/sodium ratios. Cancer Detect Prev. 1986;9(3-4):171-94

5. Jansson B, Jankovic J. Low cancer rates among patients with Parkinson’s disease. Ann Neurol. 1985 May;17(5):505-9

6. Newmark HL, Wargovich MJ, Bruce VR, Boynton AL, Kleine LP, Whitfield JF. Jansson B, Cameron IL. Ions and neoplastic development. In: Mastromarino AJ, Brattain MG, eds. Large bowel cancer. Clinical and basic science research. Cancer Research Monographs, Vol 3, New York: Praeger Publisher 1985:102-129.

7. Jansson B. Geographic mappings of colorectal cancer rates: a retrospect of studies, 1974-1984. Cancer Detect Prev. 1985;8(3):341-8

8. Jansson B. Seneca County, New York: an area with low cancer mortality rates. Cancer. 1981 Dec 1;48(11):2542-6

9. Bulkley JL. Cancer among primitive tribes. Cancer 1927; 4:289-295.

10. Henson, WW. Cancer in Kafirs: suggested cause. Guy’s Hospital Gazette, March 26, 1904, 131-133

11. Hearsey H. The rarity of cancer among the aborigines of British Central Africa. Brit Med J, Dec 1, 1906, 1562-63.

12. Hildes JA, Schaefer O. The changing picture of neoplastic disease in the western and central Canadian Arctic (1950-1980). Can Med Assoc J 1984; 130:25-32.

13. Rabinowitch IM. Clinical and other observations on Canadian Eskimos in the Eastern Arctic. Can Med Assoc J 1936; 34:487-501.

14. Renner W. The spread of cancer among the descendants of the liberated Africans or Creoles of Sierre Leone. Brit Med J, Sept 3, 1910, 587-589.

15. Riveros M. First observation of cancer among the Pampidos (Chulupi) Indians of the Paraguayan Chaco. Int Surg 1970; 53:51-55.

16. Stefansson V. Cancer: Disease of Civilization? Hill and Wang, NY, 1960.

17. Urquhart JA. The most northerly practice in Canada. Can Med Assoc J. 1935;33:193-196.

Pumpkin- The Perfectly Paleo Carb for Athletes! | The Paleo Diet

With all the nonsense we see these days in the media, it would be easy to misunderstand one of the fundamental principles of a real Paleo diet:  it’s a balanced way of eating.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not a regime focused on eating only meat, all day long. In The Paleo Diet,1 Dr. Cordain explains that a true hunter-gatherer diet is comprised of a macronutrient balance as follows: Pro 19-35%, Cho 22-40%, Fat 28-47%

How do you like them apples? And while a crisp, green apple is a great way to sneak some low glycemic fruit2 into the mix, there are some other options we can enjoy in order to fuel for, or recover from our athletic endeavors.

At this time of year, when we’re just about to welcome autumn produce into our kitchens, what better way to do so than by incorporating one of the most seasonally appropriate fall fruits, the pumpkin?3

In addition to tasting great, pumpkin offers a wealth of health benefits:4

  • Improved eyesight, due to its high Vitamin A content.
  • Cancer prevention from its antioxidant profile, according to the National Cancer Institute.
  • And, perhaps most relevant to this article, a cup of cooked pumpkin has more of the refueling nutrient potassium, with 564 milligrams (compare that to a banana, which has 422).

A little extra potassium helps restore the body’s balance of electrolytes after a heavy workout and keeps muscles functioning at their best.  High in potassium and low in sodium, this is but one more piece of evidence to show how well pumpkin fits into the perfect Paleo profile.

But how do you eat it? Buying a can of it off the shelf isn’t exactly the most natural way to go about it. Here’s my favorite way to enjoy pumpkin with an interesting twist- you can use the squash itself as the serving vehicle!


Paleoista's Pumpkin Soup | The Paleo Diet[/one_half]


  • 1 small to medium sized pumpkin
  • 2 tbsp rendered duck fat, plus another tablespoon reserved
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup white mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 lb 100% grass fed chuck, cut into 1” cubes
  • 2 cups chicken or beef broth, plus more depending on desired consistency of soup
  • 1 spring thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 2 tbsp freshly snipped chives, for garnish


1. Preheat oven to 350° F.

2. Remove top from pumpkin and set aside.

3. Scoop out seeds, rinse and set aside to dry.

4. Heat duck fat in skillet over medium high.

5. Add onions and mushrooms and sauté until browned roughly 5 – 7 minutes.

6. Remove onions and mushrooms from skillet and brown beef on all sides, roughly 4 -6 minutes.

7. Add veggies back into skillet along with broth.

8. Scrape browned bits off bottom with wooden spatula.
9. Tie herbs together with kitchen twine and place in mixture.

10. Set pumpkin cut side up in Dutch Oven and use reserved fat to rub all over the outside of the rind.

11. Pour mixture into pumpkin, then cover with pumpkin top.

12. Place in oven and cook one hour, stirring halfway through.

13. Remove from oven and stir baby spinach into the mixture, then replace pumpkin top.

14. Let sit roughly five minutes, then serve in bowls, passing chives for garnish.
Enjoy the leftovers tomorrow after a long run or bike ride; soups and stews are even better on the second day!



[1] Cordain, Loren. The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2011. Print.

[2] Braverman, Jody. “Are Apples Good for Keeping Blood Sugar Steady?” Healthy Eating. University of Redlands, n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2015.

[3] Nelson, Jennifer, RD. “Nutrition and Healthy Eating.” Fruit or Vegetable — Do You Know the Difference? The Mayo Clinic, 15 Aug. 2012. Web. 09 Sept. 2015

[4] Klein, Sarah. “8 Impressive Health Benefits of Pumpkin.” The Huffington Post. Th Huffington Post, 5 Oct. 2012. Web

Potassium-Rich Foods in The Paleo Diet

Potassium is essential for normal body function, including muscle formation, the transmission of nerve impulses, and the metabolism of carbohydrates and protein.

In 2005, the Institute of Medicine established an adequate intake (AI) level for potassium of 4,700 mg per day for adults. This AI was calculated based on intake levels found to lower blood pressure, reduce salt sensitivity, and minimize the risk of kidney stones.1 Adequate potassium consumption may also prevent against stroke and osteoporosis.

Several large epidemiological studies, when considered together, suggest that increased potassium consumption can decrease the risk of stroke.2, 3, 4, 5 In cross-sectional studies of premenopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal women, as well as elderly men, increased potassium consumption (from fruits and vegetables) is significantly associated with increased bone mineral density (BMD), suggesting that diets rich in potassium may help prevent osteoporosis.6, 7, 8

From an evolutionary perspective, our modern dietary ratios of potassium to sodium are much lower than those of our distant ancestors. Researchers estimate that people in Western industrialized cultures consume three times more sodium than potassium, whereas primitive man consumed seven times more potassium than sodium.9, 10


The chart shows the potassium (K) and sodium (Na) concentrations of common Paleo foods. As you can see, all of them provide many times more potassium than sodium, with the exception of chicken meat/skin and eggs, which contain potassium and sodium in roughly a 1:1 ratio.

The Paleo Diet, of course, recommends plenty of vegetables, modest amounts of fruit, seeds, and nuts, and no processed foods (which are typically high in sodium and low in potassium). Mushrooms are also an important food group, not only for their immune-boosting properties, but also for their impressive amounts of potassium. So try our fantastic recipe pairing cilantro-enriched guacamole with grilled Portobello mushrooms for a delicious potassium boost.


Serves 2

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed (divided)
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • Freshly milled black pepper
  • 2 Portobello mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar


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Christopher James Clark, B.B.A.
Nutritional Grail

Christopher James Clark | The Paleo Diet TeamChristopher James Clark, B.B.A. is an award-winning writer, consultant, and chef with specialized knowledge in nutritional science and healing cuisine. He has a Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan and formerly worked as a revenue management analyst for a Fortune 100 company. For the past decade-plus, he has been designing menus, recipes, and food concepts for restaurants and spas, coaching private clients, teaching cooking workshops worldwide, and managing the kitchen for a renowned Greek yoga resort. Clark is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning book, Nutritional Grail.

See more recipes!


1. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science. (2005). Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. National Academies Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309091691

2. Ascherio, A, et al. (September 1998). Intake of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber and risk of stroke among US men. Circulation, 98(12). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9743511?dopt=Abstract

3. Iso, H, et al. (September 1999). Prospective study of calcium, potassium, and magnesium intake and risk of stroke in women. Circulation, 30(9). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10471422?dopt=Abstract

4. Fang, G, et al. (July 2000). Dietary potassium intake and stroke mortality. Stroke 31(7). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10884449?dopt=Abstract

5. Bazzano, LA, et al. (July 2001). Dietary potassium intake and risk of stroke in US men and women: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I epidemiologic follow-up study. Stroke 32(7). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11441188?dopt=Abstract

6. New, SA, et al. (June 1997). Nutritional influences on bone mineral density: a cross-sectional study in premenopausal women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 65(6). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9174480?dopt=Abstract

7. New, SA, et al. (January 2000). Dietary influences on bone mass and bone metabolism: further evidence of a positive link between fruit and vegetable consumption and bone health? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71(1). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10617959?dopt=Abstract

8. Tucker, KL, et al. (April 1999). Potassium, magnesium, and fruit and vegetable intakes are associated with greater bone mineral density in elderly men and women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 69(4). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10197575?dopt=Abstract

9. Young, DB, et al. (April 1995). Potassium’s cardiovascular protective mechanisms. The American Journal of Physiology, 268(4 Pt. 2). Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7733391?dopt=Abstract

10. Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. Micronutrient Information Center. Potassium. Retrieved from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/potassium/

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