Category Archives: potassium

Potassium boosts bone health

A randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled trial has suggested that potassium citrate may have significant benefits for bone health (1).

The research involved 201 healthy elderly men and women who received supplements each day for 24 months. All of the adults received a calcium and vitamin D supplement each day. In addition, the adults were given either a daily potassium citrate supplement or a placebo pill.

After 24 months, bone mineral density was measured by x-ray. A special tool was also used to calculate the risk of fracture for each participant.

Potassium Citrate is strongly linked with bone health
Potassium Citrate is strongly linked with bone health

The researchers suggested that the benefits of the potassium citrate are a result of its alkalinity which helps to prevent calcium loss from bones. The food that we eat determines the pH balance in our bodies. If our diet is acid-forming, then the alkaline mineral calcium is leeched from our bones to restore pH balance. This calcium loss decreases bone mineral density, making bones very vulnerable. Potassium citrate gives the body the resource it needs to keep pH levels balanced without placing stress of the bones. It ensures that the bones are provided with sufficient back-up alkaline which can be stored by the bone ready to be used when alkaline compounds in the blood run short.

The modern diet is believed to have an increasingly acidic load owing to poor food choices. Potassium-rich fruits and vegetables are often overlooked in favour of acid-forming processed red meats, cheddar cheese, sodium, white flour and sugar. Over time, eating an imbalanced diet of excess animal protein, refined grains, sugar, alcohol and salt can cause your body to slip into a state of mild acidosis.

By making small adjustments to your diet, your body can use its mineral stores for building bone, rather than for fighting acidosis. You can shift to a more alkaline diet by making a few simple dietary changes:

  • Eat more than 5 servings of fruit and vegetables each day
  • Reduce intake of processed animal products
  • Replace grains such as wheat and white rice with more alkaline quinoa, millet and buckwheat
  • Drink water with a little freshly squeezed lemon or lime
  • Use potatoes, squash and other root vegetables as your energy-giving carbohydrate sources
  • Eat plenty of spices such as ginger, cinnamon and mustard
  • Try alkaline-forming supplements such as a good quality multivitamin and mineral formula, or a greens powder each day

Reference

1.Jehle S, Hulter HN, Krapf R (2012) Effect of Potassium Citrate on Bone Density, Microarchitecture, and Fracture Risk in Healthy Older Adults without Osteoporosis: A Randomised Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Nov 15 (Epub ahead of print)

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Boosting potassium levels through fruit and vegetable consumption may help to reduce blood pressure

Last week I wrote about garlic in relation to lowering blood pressure.  Today I wanted to mention potassium and blood pressure.



Firstly I wanted to write a little more about the problem of high blood pressure (hypertension) in the Western world.  For purposes of illustration I am using statistics(1) for England derived from the 2005 Health Survey for England.  However, the trend is general for the UK and beyond.  High blood pressure is not great news!  It increases the risk of heart disease and stroke and is also linked to dementia and eye problems such as age related macular degeneration.



Hypertension is defined as a systolic blood pressure of 140mmHg or over, or a diastolic blood pressure of 90mmHg or over (see last week for definitions and explanations of diastolic and systolic).  The target for the general population is to have a blood pressure below 140 (systolic)/85 (diastolic).


In England 2005:
*The average systolic blood pressure was 134mmHG for men and 128mmHG for women
*35% of men and 28% of women had hypertension or were being treated for hypertension
*59% of men and 44% of women with hypertension were not receiving treatment
*Of the individuals who were being treated for high blood pressure over 50% remained hypertensive (with a high blood pressure)
 


Blood pressure levels increased with age.
*In men aged 16-24 the average systolic blood pressure was 128mmHg compared to 141mmHg in men aged 75 and over
*In women aged 16-24 the average systolic blood pressure was 117mm Hg compared to 144mmHg in those aged 75 and over. 
*Only 1% of women aged 16 to 24 are hypertensive, compared to 42% aged 55 to 64 and around 67% aged 65 to 74.



As the statistics show, high blood pressure is a very real problem, especially as we get over the age of 40.  Thankfully there is plenty we can do to keep our blood pressure in check and lower it if necessary.  Last week I discussed garlic supplementation and today I am looking at potassium.  The British Heart Foundation(1) have a booklet on blood pressure with more detailed information on why blood pressure maintenance is important, the causes of high blood pressure and detailed advice on how to reduce it.  The booklet can be downloaded from their website.


Back to potassium.  A recent review(2) has found that boosting dietary intake levels of potassium may help to lower the risk of developing high blood pressure and may also decrease blood pressure in individuals already suffering from hypertension. 



Vegetables and fruits are great sources of potassium.  The authors of the study point out that a healthy intake of potassium is thought to be one reason why vegetarians and isolated populations have a very low incidence of heart disease.  In areas were diets are low in sodium and high in vegetables and fruits (representing high potassium levels), hypertension affects only 1% of the population. In contrast, the authors note that in industrialized societies, where people consume diets high in processed foods and large amounts of dietary sodium 1 in 3 persons have hypertension.



In addition to potassium the review study looked at calcium and magnesium, minerals which are also important in controlling blood pressure.  The authors conclude that “A high intake of these minerals [potassium, calcium and magnesium] through increased consumption of fruits and vegetables may improve blood pressure levels and reduce coronary heart disease and stroke



An increase in vegetables and fruits is fantastic general dietary advice.  These super foods are full of essential vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients (bioactive plant chemicals) as well as fibre and are vital to our health, not just blood pressure.  Getting a minimum of five portions a day is recommended (recently the National Cancer Institute has recommended 5-9 portions a day and the Danish campaign aims at a minimum of 6 a day!).  Potassium supplements are available and limited trial data exists to support their usefulness in lowering blood pressure, however, potassium supplements should not be used as a replacement for fruit, vegetables and a healthy diet.


 


(1)British Heart Foundation http://www.heartstats.org/homepage.asp, http://www.bhf.org.uk/


(2)Houston MC & Harper KJ.  2008.  Potassium, magnesium and calcium:their role in both the cause and treatment of hypertension.  10:3-11


Written by Ani Kowal

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