Potassium Intake May Have Positive Effect on Blood Pressure

A recent study found that people who eat foods high in dietary potassium had lower blood pressures, regardless of their sodium consumption levels.

According to their press release, information presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA’s) Scientific Sessions 2016 indicates that most Americans’ sodium intakes are too high and potassium intakes are too low.[1] “A diet that is too high in salt consumption, as well as calories, saturated fat and sugar, carries an additional risk of developing high blood pressure,” explains the AHA.[2] On the other hand, increased potassium consumption is positively associated with increased sodium loss through urine.[3] Moreover, potassium provides additional blood pressure lowering benefits by alleviating strain in blood vessel walls.[4]

Presented at the AHA’s 2016 Scientific Sessions, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health researchers found that adult participants in the 2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey had an average daily potassium intake of 2,202 mg.[5] However, adequate consumption is considered 4,700 mg or more of potassium.[6]  Sodium intake averaged 3,662 mg daily. Almost 90 percent of those surveyed consumed more sodium than the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 top recommended level of 2,300 mg.[7]

Managing Blood Pressure

Emphasizing the importance of potassium, multiple studies have shown an association between higher potassium intake and lower blood pressure.[8] These are significant findings given high blood pressure, i.e., hypertension, affects one out of every three adults 20 years of age and older.[9]

A review by University of Southern California (USC) researchers published recently in the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism even linked higher intake of dietary potassium to lower blood pressure regardless of sodium consumption.[10] According to a report on the USC News website, the researchers investigated potassium’s possible mechanisms and found indications “that the body does a balancing act that uses sodium to maintain close control of potassium levels in the blood, which is critical to normal heart, nerve and muscle function. When dietary potassium is high, kidneys excrete more salt and water, which increases potassium excretion. Eating a high potassium diet is like taking a diuretic,” reports lead author, Alicia McDonough.[11] “When dietary potassium is low, the balancing act uses sodium retention to hold onto the limited potassium, which is like eating a higher sodium diet,” explains McDonough.[12]

Throughout the ages diets have changed, and now most Western diets include eating processed foods which are typically low in potassium and high in sodium contents.[13] Therefore, to increase potassium intake, Americans need to choose potassium-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables, fish and fat-free or low-fat dairy foods.[14] The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan also emphasizes consuming these healthy foods and others, along with limiting sodium intake, to help manage blood pressure.[15]

Further emphasizing the importance of potassium along with acknowledging the scientific evidence supporting its increased intake, is the decision by the Food and Drug Administration to require that potassium content be included on the Nutrition Facts labels of packaged foods by mid-2018.[16]

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[1] American Heart Association. “Sunday Scientific Sessions News Tips.” 13 Nov 2016. Accessed on 26 Apr 2017. Retrieved from http://newsroom.heart.org/news/Xsunday-scientific-sessions-news-tips

[2] American Heart Association. “Know Your Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure.” Updated 18 Apr 2017. Accessed on 26 Apr 2017. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/UnderstandSymptomsRisks/Know-Your-Risk-Factors-for-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002052_Article.jsp

[3] American Heart Association. “How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure.” Updated 13 Dec 2016. Accessed on 26 Apr 2017. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/MakeChangesThatMatter/How-Potassium-Can-Help-Control-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_303243_Article.jsp#.WQCuM1Pyuu5

[4] American Heart Association. “How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure.”

[5] American Heart Association. “Sunday Scientific Sessions News Tips.”

[6] American Heart Association. “Sunday Scientific Sessions News Tips.”

[7] American Heart Association. “Sunday Scientific Sessions News Tips.”

[8] Rheinschild, Erica.

[9] American Heart Association. “The Facts About High Blood Pressure.” Updated 10 Mar 2017. Accessed on 26 Apr 2017. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/GettheFactsAboutHighBloodPressure/The-Facts-About-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002050_Article.jsp

[10] Rheinschild, Erica.

[11] Rheinschild, Erica.

[12] Rheinschild, Erica.

[13] Rheinschild, Erica.

[14] American Heart Association. “How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure.”

[15] National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. “Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure.” May 2003. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH Publication No. 03-5232. Accessed on 26 Apr 2017. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/hbp_low.pdf

[16] U.S. Food & Drug Administration. “Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label.” Updated 25 Apr 2017. Accessed on 26 Apr 2017. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm