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Salt replacements by potassium chloride could be deadly

March 11, 2009

Renal specialists say that use of potassium chloride as a sodium chloride (salt) replacer could pose a hidden risk for dialysis patients.

It has been claimed that Americans get up to 80% of their sodium intake from packaged foods, so manufacturers have been under pressure to reduce salt content in their products. Potassium chloride has been seen as a potential candidate for salt replacement because it tastes as salty, and although it does not have the same functionality, it has not been connected to the health problems associated with salt.

There are some foods that dialysis patients should avoid. Potassium in particular is one of those nutrients, which their kidneys are unable to filter. When levels become very high it can cause irregular heartbeats and even heart attacks. People could die from foods high in potassium chloride but not labeled as such, some dieticians warned.

The dieticians suggested that products which use the salt substitute could be labeled ‘low in sodium (or salt)’ and ‘good source of potassium’. Putting potassium on the label might attract some people to those foods anyway, as potassium is good for the heart for most people, they said.

It is often difficult for renal patients to avoid potassium, because it is found at high levels in many common foods, including bananas, tomatoes and potatoes.