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Potassium

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Potassium is a mineral that is found in either in supplementary form (e.g., potassium citrate, potassium chloride, potassium gluconate) or, in specific types of foods such as bananas, potatoes, and cooked spinach.

Potassium is a mineral that is found in either in supplementary form (e.g., potassium citrate, potassium chloride, potassium gluconate) or, in specific types of foods such as bananas, potatoes, and cooked spinach. High blood pressure and kidney stones are two medical conditions that have been shown to respond favourably to this mineral.

An Abundant Electrolyte

Potassium, sodium, and chloride are the most abundant electrolytes (charged particles or ions) found in the human body. The electrolyte potassium is found principally inside the cell at concentrations 30 times higher thatn outside the cell. In contrast, sodium is 10 times lower inside the cell than outside. Together, these two neighbourly minerals help our cells maintain a precise electrical and chemical balance that scientists have called the membrane potential. The body's careful regulation of the cells' membrane potential is critical for a wide number of functions in the body including proper heart function, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction.

Benefits of Potassium

High blood pressure is a common risk factor for heart disease. Several studies have shown that supplementation with potassium can help lower blood pressure. One such study found that the administration of 120 mEq (4,691 mg) per day of potassium to 101 adults with mild hypertension resulted in a significant reduction of systolic (- 6.4 mmHg) and diastolic (- 4.1 mmHg) blood pressure after 2 months of therapy. Furthermore, in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, Dr. F.L. Brancati and associates presented findings that determined 80 mmol (3,128 mg) per day of potassium chloride over a three weeks period lowered blood pressure in black men and women by an average of 6.9 mmHg systolic and 2.5 mmHg diastolic compared to a placebo.

In addition to its role in treating high blood pressure, a special type of potassium called potassium citrate may also help prevent the formation of painful kidney stones. In one study, 36 patients with an active history of kidney stones were given either 30 mEq (1,173 mg) a day of potassium citrate per day or a placebo for 3 years. Remarkably, in the potassium users, stone formation reduced from an average of 1.2 to 0.1 per year and 72%- percent were in complete remission from the disorder.

Proper Supplementation

The recommended adult daily dose of potassium from all sources should be between 1.9 and 5.6 grams per day. Additionally, studies have shown that 3 to 5 grams per day of supplementary potassium chloride, or 1.2 grams per day of potassium citrate can be employed in the treatment of high blood pressure and the prevention of kidney stones, respectively. Excess potassium in the body can cause gastrointestinal upset, slow heart beat, and, in severe cases, cause heart attack.7 Moreover, tThose with kidney failure, ulcers, and gastritis, as well as those using potassium- sparing diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and other prescription drugs should not take supplemental potassium without consulting a physician.

The Bottom Line

For those with mild to moderate hypertension, a diet in potassium rich- foods and/or potassium chloride supplements is helpful for managing their condition. Also, those suffering from recurrent kidney stones will benefit from regular potassium citrate use.

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