The popular modern diet, characterized by an excess of animal protein and salt but insufficient in fruits, vegetables and water, is a poor fit for human physiological and homeostatic regulatory systems. Sustained net acid and sodium retention, coupled with an insufficient intake of cardiovascular protective potassium-rich foods and hydration in the modern diet can give rise to debilitating chronic organ dysfunction and ultimately, mortality. This holds true, especially in our aging population who are already facing inevitable decline in organ functional reserve. Importantly, in most cases, despite the mismatch and adverse effects to multiple organ systems, plasma electrolyte and acid-base parameters can, on the surface, be maintained within a “normal” reference range, primarily by activating (often maximally activating) compensatory homeostatic mechanisms. These diet-induced effects can thus be clinically silent for decades. Embodied in the chronic corrective homeostatic processes, however, are real risks for multiorgan damage. According to the Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee (DGAC), half of American adults have one or more chronic diseases that are preventable with dietary modification. Here, homeostasis of body fluid acid-base, sodium, potassium and water is examined. Our current dietary habits and their required regulatory adaptation, maladaptation and relevant physiology and pathophysiology are discussed. A framework of dietary modifications to avoid a propensity for maladaptation and thus lowers the risks of common modern diseases (primary prevention) and minimizes the risk of chronic and age-related disease progression (secondary prevention) is emphasized. Although there are other variables at play, a key to restoring the all-important dietary potassium to sodium ratio is greater consumption of vegetables/fruits and adopting salt temperance. Dietary and nutritional optimization is an under-emphasized area of health care that has an enormous potential to temper the epidemics of prevalent chronic diseases in modern society and improve population health.
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