The Health Benefits of Potassium

The Health Benefits of Potassium

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Introduction & Biological Role

Potassium is an essential mineral to the human body and it’s overall function.

Potassium is critical to the electrical activity and pumping of the heart muscle, it’s also important for skeletal muscle and smooth muscle, aiding in physical activity and digestion.

Health Benefits/ Uses

Low Potassium

Although it sounds obvious, the most common use of potassium supplementation or increasing your dietary intake is to treat low potassium. Certain medical conditions and medications can increase your potassium secretion. Supplementation may be required to maintain normal levels.

Bone Health / Osteoporosis

Some early research suggests that potassium consumption may play a role in the prevention of osteoporosis. This is most notable in elderly women who are at the highest risk. More research is needed.

High Blood Pressure

Some studies have found that low potassium is linked to increased risk of hypertension or high blood pressure. Others have found that supplementation does slightly decrease blood pressure, including a meta-analysis in 1997. Certain hormones that help maintain blood pressure do regulate potassium levels so this makes sense biologically. Generally speaking, physicians are not prescribing potassium for the purpose of treating blood pressure and more research is needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn regarding using blood pressure to regulate potassium.

Stroke

There is evidence suggesting that folks with low potassium are at increased risk of stroke. People with high dietary intake of potassium appear to have reduced risk of stroke. However, this has not been reproduced with with supplemental potassium.

Kidney Stones

Individuals with calcium-based kidney stones have been found to have benefit from potassium supplementation. This is because it decreases the excretion of calcium into your urinary tract which will go on to form the stones.

Deficiency

Low potassium is termed hypokalemia.

Symptoms of low potassium include weak muscles, abnormal heart rhythms, elevated blood pressure.

Risk factors for low potassium include medications (water pills or diuretics, laxatives), prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, certain kidney disorders.

Toxicity

High potassium is termed hyperkalemia.

High potassium does not typically present with symptoms but will cause abnormal and life threatening heart rhythms.

Causes include poor kidney function, infection, medications (potassium sparing water pills, ACE inhibitors, ARBs)

Sources

Generally speaking, the best dietary sources of potassium include fruits, juices, vegetables, dairy, fish, poultry, nuts and seeds… or almost everything.

Top 10 sources

  1. Sweet potato (1 potatoe, 694 mg)
  2. Tomato paste (¼ cup, 664 mg)
  3. Beet greens (½ cup, 655 mg)
  4. White beans (½ cup, 595 mg)
  5. Yogurt (8 oz, 579 mg)
  6. Clams (3 oz, 534 mg)
  7. Prune juice (¾ cup, 530 mg)
  8. Carrot juice (¾ cup, 517 mg)
  9. Blackstrap molasses (1 tbsp, 498 mg)
  10. Halibut (3 oz, 490 mg)

 

Of note, bananas are famously a great source of potassium. They come in around #20 on the USDA list of top dietary sources of potassium.

Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)

  • Adults, 19 years and older: 4.7 grams (4,700 mg)/day
  • Pregnant women: 4.7 grams (4,700 mg)/day
  • Breastfeeding women: 5.1 grams (5,100 mg)/day

Related Links (View All: Vitamins | Minerals | Supplements )

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