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Potassium-rich food 'a life saver'

Millions of lives could be saved every year if people ate more potassium-rich foods such as bananas and cut down on their salt intake, research suggests.

People who have a high potassium intake have a 24% reduced risk of stroke, according to a new study.

And increasing levels of potassium - which can be found in many foods including fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, milk, fish, beef, chicken, turkey and bread - can help to reduce high blood pressure, the results indicate.

Researchers also said that increased levels of the chemical do not have an adverse effect on kidney function in adults.

Previous studies have suggested that older people are at an increased risk of harm from potassium because as people get older, their kidneys may become less able to remove potassium from their blood.

The Department of Health advises that older people should not have potassium supplements unless advised to take them by a doctor. It says that adults need 3,500mg of potassium a day - which people should be able to get from eating a balanced diet.

The research, published on bmj.com, analysed data on potassium intake and health concerning 128,000 participants, who took part in 33 trials.

The authors wrote: “High quality evidence shows that increased potassium intake reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension and has no adverse effect on blood lipid concentrations, catecholamine concentrations, or renal function in adults.

“Higher potassium intake was associated with a 24% lower risk of stroke.

“These results suggest that increased potassium intake is potentially beneficial to most people without impaired renal handling of potassium for the prevention and control of elevated blood pressure and stroke.”

In separate research, also published on the journal’s website, the effects of modest salt reduction on blood pressure, hormones, and blood fats were examined.

The authors looked at data from 34 trials involving over 3,200 adults.

They found that a modest reduction in salt for four or more weeks led to significant falls in blood pressure in people with both raised and normal blood pressure - and could therefore reduce people’s risk of strokes, heart attacks, and heart failure.

Similar results were found in another piece of research published on the website. The authors noted: “Reduced sodium intake reduces blood pressure and has no adverse effect on blood lipids, catecholamine levels, or renal function, and moderate quality evidence in children shows that a reduction in sodium intake reduces blood pressure.

“Lower sodium intake is also associated with a reduced risk of stroke and fatal coronary heart disease in adults. The totality of evidence suggests that most people will likely benefit from reducing sodium intake.”

 

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Readers' comments (11)

  • careful what advice you give!

    we had a young patient who was revived with CPR after drowning. She had to be repatriated from Siri Lanka and came to our gen. med. ward from ICU. she was doing well but we were unable to stabilised her potassium levels which were alarmingly and puzzling high until we discovered that she was regularly consuming excessive amounts of liquoricce. she was just about addicted to it and was supplied by a Dutch friend who imported it from Holland for her!

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  • This is what happens when you have journos writing these articles, no real understanding. Please look up the effects of hyperkalaemia, NT staff ( i.e. raised potassium). Also, as an adjunct, use Wikipedia to learn all about hyponatraemia ( you'll have to work that one out yourselves)and all!

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  • from 6 April 08.06

    I note this article is direct from the Press Association who are not noted for their accuracy. How they find their way into a quasi-professional journal, I do not know.

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  • michael stone

    redpaddys12 | 7-Apr-2013 3:04 am

    Then read up on sodium-potassium balance, as well as absolute levels.

    My, what a lot of homework, there is !

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  • DH Agent - as if ! | 7-Apr-2013 1:32 pm

    looks like you are just commenting for the sake of it without anything constructive to add.

    it is something every nurse must know otherwise you end up with a lot of very ill or dead patients.

    incidentally, no mention here that bananas are also a rich source of magnesium which is also an essential mineral salt.

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  • Mike Stone
    2 hours a night for the rest of your life, Mike.

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  • Anon 8.18
    Quasi-professional journal indeed, the equivalent of the Whizzer and Chips or Sunday Sport

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  • redpaddys12 | 8-Apr-2013 4:45 am

    from anon 8.18

    redpaddys

    please kindly note my comment in no way reflects my personal opinion, I was only trying to be nice by attempting to exercise my skills in diplomacy! seems they backfired!

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  • in a nutshell, too much potassium drives you bananas - or is it the other way round?

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  • michael stone

    redpaddys12 | 8-Apr-2013 4:43 am

    Not for me, on this topic - I don't need to 'bone up' on blood ion effects, as a non-clinician, do I !

    Anonymous | 7-Apr-2013 6:53 pm

    No, I was not commenting to 'no point' - just pointing out that there is often more to understand and think about.

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  • Mike Stone
    You've nothing better to do!

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