Minerals // Potassium

Disease Risk Reduction

Osteoporosis

A considerable beneficial link between potassium consumption and bone mineral density (BMD) in premeno-pausal, menopausal, and postmenopausal women, as well as in elderly males has been noted in four cross-sectional studies (9, 10, 11). The range of average potassium consumption of those involved in the study was from about 3,000 to 3,400 mg/day. Highest potassium consumption was over 6,000 mg/day, while the lowest range was 1,400 to 1,600 mg/day. 

Foods typically considered rich in potassium like fruit and vegetables are normally also high in precursors to ‘bicarbonate ions’. These buffer acids found in the body, in order to stabilize the body’s pH value. Diets in the Western world today tend to be more acidic (fish, meats, and cheeses) and less alkaline (fruits and vegetab-les). To stabilize the body’s pH, alkaline calcium salts in the bones are freed to neutralize ingested acids and those produced by metabolism when there aren’t enough bicarbonate ions present (12). Eating more fruits and vegetables lowers the diet’s total acid content and could help maintain healthy calcium levels in bones (13). The results of three studies support this theory (13, 14, 15).

Stroke

Reduced incidence of stroke has been linked to higher potassium consumption, as indicated by a few large-scale epidemiological studies

43,000 men were studied for eight years in a prospective study which demonstrated that those that con-sumed the most dietary potassium (median intake, 4,300 mg/day) were only 62% as likely to suffer from a stroke as men with the lowest potassium consumption (median intake, 2,400 mg/day) (4).

On the other hand, a far smaller link between the incidence of stroke and potassium consumption was noted in a comparable prospective study following over 85,000 women for a 14-year period (5).

Increased potassium consumption was linked to diminished stroke risk only in black men and women with high blood pressure in a separate large-scale study of over 9,000 people for a study period of approximately 16 years(6). The black participants did however show a considerably lower average consumption of potassium compared to the white participants (1,606 mg/day vs. 2,178 mg/day). A follow-up on the same participants showed that those with potassium intakes over 1,352 mg/day were only 72% as likely to suffer from a stroke as those with potassium intakes under 1,352 mg/day (7).

A higher stroke risk in people not on diuretics was linked to low potassium consumption in a prospective study following 5,600 people over 65 (8).

Generally, evidence indicates that a slight increase in consumption of potassium-rich foods could consi-derably lower stroke risk. This is particularly the case for people with high blood pressure and/or relatively low potassium consumption.  

Kidney stones

There is a heightened risk of kidney stones among people with unusually high levels of calcium in their urine. In people who have suffered from kidney stones in the past, increasing the intake of acidic food is linked to higher levels of urinary calcium (16). High levels of calcium in the urine have also been linked to potassium deprivation (17, 18). Excretion of calcium in the urine can be diminished by increasing calcium consumption or through supplementation with potassium bicarbonate. 

The risk of developing symptomatic kidney stones in men whose potassium consumption averaged more than 4,042 mg/day was half that of men whose intake averaged less than 2,895 mg/day in a large-scale prospective study covering over 45,000 men for a period of four years (19). Women with the highest potassium consumption levels (averaging 3,458 mg/day) in a comparable study were only 65% as likely to develop symptomatic kidney stones as women with the lowest potassium consumption levels (averaging 2,703 mg/day). This study followed over 90,000 women for 12 years (20).