On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Dangerous Treatments, Potassium

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I was diagnosed with herpes simplex virus and have heard that the use of food-grade (35 percent), high-strength hydrogen peroxide taken internally shows some promise in dealing with this problem. I am seriously considering trying this but wanted to know your thoughts, and if there are drug interactions that I need to be concerned with before starting this. Also, any precautions in general that I need to keep in mind and watch for. -- S.H., via email

DEAR S.H.: Here’s hoping you are still in decision mode. The concept that taking 35 percent, high-strength hydrogen peroxide internally, i.e., swallowing it, to treat the herpes simplex virus is risky business. A review of the research on the internal use of hydrogen peroxide revealed nothing encouraging for its use on any health issue; if anything, there are plentiful warnings against such use. It is important to understand that the “food grade” descriptive relates to the absence of certain stabilizers found in the typical (3 percent) hydrogen peroxide found on store shelves and used as an external disinfectant, or diluted more and used as a mouthwash. If you were to swallow the 35 percent, high-concentrate hydrogen peroxide, drug interactions would be the least of your concerns as it would chemically burn the tissues it contacts. Give a read to the information at the Poison Control Center (blonz.org/6xz44) and also to an article at the Berkeley Wellness Letter (blonz.org/cb9ky) for more information.

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DEAR DR. BLONZ: I read the nutrition content on food products, and I am concerned about potassium. Too little is bad, but too much can also be a problem. Why isn’t it listed on all labels? -- G.B., Oakland, California

DEAR G.B.: Potassium, which has a chemical symbol of K, is one of the body’s key electrolyte minerals. It regulates the water balance inside our cells. (Contrast this with sodium, which regulates water balance outside the cells.) Potassium is also involved in maintaining our body’s acid-base balance, and in the transmission of nerve signals, which makes it key to such activities as keeping our heart beating. You want to avoid having too much potassium, and supplementation is not usually needed unless there is a specific health problem, or medication is being used that might deplete the body of this mineral. If the kidneys are working normally, excess potassium gets excreted in the urine. The adult Daily Value for potassium is 4,700 milligrams per day. Recently, the FDA announced a new format for Nutrition Facts labels that use a larger font for serving size and calories and have more information that includes potassium content (see: blonz.org/pkxgq). You may already see these on food products from some manufacturers, but they are not mandated until 2020-2021, depending on the size of the company. The older-style label had not been required to indicate potassium content unless specific claims were made that mentioned or related to potassium content. The best food sources for potassium include fresh, whole foods such as potatoes, acorn squash, artichoke, pomegranate, bananas, legumes, citrus fruit and avocados.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.