Potassium Supplementation Reduces Blood Pressure
Taking small amounts of potassium may modestly lower blood pressure, according to a new study in British Journal of Nutrition (2003;90:53–60). The findings of the new study suggest that this safe, inexpensive treatment could significantly lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
High blood pressure (hypertension) affects more than 50 million adults in the United States and is one of the leading risk factors for heart attack and stroke. Optimal blood pressure is considered to be 120/80 mmHg. Hypertension is when blood pressure exceeds 140/90 mmHg. In more than 90% of those who have hypertension, the cause is unknown. Studies have shown that small decreases in blood pressure lead to significant reductions in heart disease-related complications.
Many physicians recommend people with hypertension restrict salt intake and studies show that 10 to 30% of those with hypertension become worse when ingesting large amounts salt.
In the new study, 59 healthy adults between the ages of 25 and 65 years were randomly assigned to receive 600 mg of potassium chloride three times per day or a placebo for six weeks. Blood pressure was measured initially, after three weeks of treatment, and at the conclusion of the study. Mean arterial pressure (MAP), a calculation made from blood pressure readings that summarizes both top (systolic) and bottom (diastolic) readings into one value, was measured at the same intervals.
Systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and MAP all decreased significantly in those taking potassium (by 7.6 mmHg, 6.5 mmHg, and 7.0 mmHg, respectively), compared with initial measurements. A significant increase in blood pressure was observed in those taking placebo. No change in heart rate or body weight occurred in either group.
The results of the new study are similar to those previously observed in other studies. The effectiveness of low-dose potassium supplementation in lowering blood pressure is comparable to that achieved by single-drug therapy, such as diuretics or beta-blockers, but potassium has fewer adverse side effects. The participants in this study did not have high blood pressure; however, other studies have shown that potassium supplementation significantly lowers blood pressure in adults with hypertension. Good food sources of potassium include bananas, oranges, other fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and meats.
Other natural treatments for high blood pressure include coenzyme Q10, essential fatty acids, calcium, and magnesium. See a healthcare provider knowledgeable in nutrition for specific intake information.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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