Many Westerners suffer from potassium deficiency.

Much of this is caused by the poor mineral quality of our soil which leads to fewer nutrients in fruit, vegetables and meat that we consume.

Potassium deficiency can manifest itself in a number of ways: high blood pressure, heart palpitations, muscle aches and even mental issues such as irritability and depression. People with medical conditions should consult a doctor before embarking on any dramatic supplement programme.

That said, relatively healthy Americans can sprinkle No Salt on their food. Britons will find the same potassium-rich product under the name Lo Salt.

Last week, I wrote about the late Joe Vialls, who lived in Perth, Australia, and was passionate about a number of socio-political topics, including health issues.

His article on potassium deficiency has the 1936 US Senate addendum on soil quality about which I wrote this week which concluded here in part 2.

This post looks at how we came to be potassium deficient.

Baron Justus von Liebig — father of fertiliser

Before Vialls related the story of how he managed to cure his own angina without medical assistance, he discussed soil quality from the end of the 19th century to the present day.

File:Liebig Company Trading Card Ad 01.12.006 front.tifBaron Justus von Liebig (1803-1873) was a famous German chemist whose legacy lives on in fertilisers, nutritional principles and food. The Liebig’s Extract of Meat Company created Oxo bouillon and Marmite, both of which were modelled on the baron’s meat extracts designed for poor people who could not afford the real thing. The company expanded around the world, including South America. Cattle breeding greatly expanded there for tinned meat production under the company’s label Fray Bentos. It is said that Liebig’s Extract of Meat Company brought the industrial revolution to the continent.

Liebig had conducted a number of experiments and tests on soil quality which led to the development of crop fertiliser. Some of his theories turned out to be right and others wrong. However, he tried to help humanity rather than hinder it.

Vialls took a somewhat different view to mine. He wrote (emphases mine):

The beginning of the end for obtaining essential minerals from fruit and vegetables happened in the middle of the 19th Century, when German chemist Baron Justus Von Liebig analyzed human and plant ash, and determined that nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium [NPK] were all the minerals plants needed. He claimed that if fed synthetically to plants, farmers could force plants to grow and support healthy humans. Thus Von Liebig became the father of synthetic manure, which in turn spawned superphosphate, the mother of all deceptive fertilizers. Though NPK and superphosphate are able to create a synthetic soil environment sufficient to stimulate plant growth, the resulting fruits and vegetables are always seriously deficient in trace minerals, with some containing none at all. Baron Von Liebig watched the deficiencies his invention caused with horror, and recanted before he died, but it was all too late. By then, the big investors had moved in for a quick kill.

Vialls’s article states that, even by the end of the 19th century, food grown with the new fertilisers had less potassium in it than before — regardless of the fact that Liebig deemed it essential.

From potassium to sodium

Running concurrently with that was the development of cheap table salt easily transported by rail. Up until then, salt was very expensive. We know this from all manner of ancient sources, including the Bible. When we say someone is worth his salt, we are referring to the payment of salaries in salt. ‘Salt of the earth’ refers to someone whose goodness and sincerity are priceless.

The article tells us that until the late 19th century, what most people — and animals — consumed in place of salt was sylvite, which is potassium chloride:

Great chunks of sylvite were dotted along the trading routes for the beasts of burden to lick at, thereby restoring their electrolytes lost through sweating and other exertion. But when the railroads opened up America from east to west, they started carrying vast quantities of cheap salt produced in giant pans on the two coasts. Unfortunately for Americans this was sea salt, comprised of 98.8% sodium chloride, the favorite of fishes but a deadly enemy of man. And so it was that in less than seventy years, western man had his healthy potassium replaced almost entirely by unhealthy sodium.

Vialls was exaggerating the perils of sea salt, but the point here is that the early processing of cheap table salt extracted too many of salt’s natural qualities. Food Renegade explains (emphases in the original):

Factory-made salt can’t and doesn’t team iodine with the other nutrients it’s found paired with in nature — nutrients that help it to assimilate properly.

Iodized salt did help solve the goiter epidemic of the 20’s but there was a tragic increase in a thyroid autoimmune condition, thyroiditis.  Why add iodine to a highly refined product, one that usually contains aluminum (to prevent caking) instead of consuming salt in its original form?

We can trust foods found in nature.  When we alter foods, we have a Frankenstein situation with unpredictable, often disease-causing effects.

In its original form salt contains not only trace amounts of iodine, but other minerals that are valuable in their own right and that in conjunction with one another help us to assimilate nutrients on a cellular level, co-factors.

sea salt, or naturally occurring salt found in caves, rivers and lakes, is a mineral-rich health food.  It does not lead to heart disease or cause other health risks.

Just the opposite.


Salt is comprised of sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl).  Sodium is used by the body, in part, to digest carbohydrates.  Chloride, among its other purposes, is used by the body to break down proteins, and also has anti-pathogen properties.

Iron, iodine, magnesium, potassium, and zinc comprise a complex and subtle total of over 80 trace minerals, ones that regulate our hydration, digestion, and immune system as well as being required for proper thyroid and adrenal function.

I don’t personally believe that nutrition is found in nature on accident.  It is there to bless us and the animals that consume it.

Vialls would certainly have agreed with that conclusion.

Tomorrow: A South American tribe contrasted with agribusiness and medicine