Potassium: Sources, Deficiencies and Overdose

Health and Nutrition
8.01.2020

Potassium is a vital nutrient and is the most abundant cation present in the body fluid. The symbol of potassium is K because in Latin it is known as Kalium. It is found in the intracellular fluid where it plays an important role in regulating cell functions (1).

Potassium is the main intracellular cation involved in membrane potential, electrical excitation of both nerve and muscle cells and acid-base regulation (2).

What does potassium do in the body?

  • Potassium and sodium control the water balance and acid-base balance in the blood and tissues.
  • Potassium and sodium together play a role in generating the electrical potential that helps conduction of nerve impulse
  • The electrical potential gradient created by sodium-potassium complex results in generating muscle contractions and controls heartbeat
  • Potassium plays a significant role in energy metabolism. It is also involved in the synthesis of proteins from amino acids and carbohydrate metabolism.
  • Potassium is essential for normal growth and also to build muscle (3).

 

Sources of potassium

Potassium is mostly found in fruits and vegetable. Potato is the richest source of potassium of all foods (4).

Nuts, soft drinks, cereal and cereal products, milk and milk products are good sources of potassium. Bananas are also a rich source of potassium. Green leafy vegetables and root vegetables also provide potassium (2).

How much potassium does one need?

To accurately determine requirement for dietary potassium intake is difficult. It depends on factors such as energy needs and intake of sodium. It also depends on genetics and blood pressure (1). The adequate intake for potassium is 4.7 gm/day for adults (2, 5).

 

Health benefits potassium exhibits

A high potassium intake seems to have protective effects on

  • Cardiovascular system
  • Kidneys
  • Bones

The reasons for these protective effects could be because potassium lowers blood pressure, it may be effective in reducing stroke and could help prevent chronic kidney damage. Increasing daily potassium intake helps to reduce calcium excretion in the urine and may have a beneficial effect on bone health (2).

Evidence says that potassium may also have a positive effect on glucose control hence good for people with diabetes (1).

Potassium Deficiencies

Potassium deficiency is seen rarely as a number of foods provide potassium. But there are certain conditions in which potassium deficiency may be seen. Continuous use of laxatives and diuretics may result in decrease in potassium levels in the body. People who use laxatives and diuretics on a regular basis should seek medical attention. Their doctors should monitor potassium levels in the body at regular intervals.

People who throw up regularly intentionally or otherwise also may have reduced potassium content in their body. Intake of diets containing very low number of calories may also lead to low levels of potassium in the body (5). When potassium levels in plasma are higher than normal the condition is called hyperkalemia (6).

Potassium overdose

Healthy individuals consuming normal dietary intakes of potassium are unlikely to experience potassium toxicity. Excess potassium intake via supplements may increase levels of potassium in the body and the condition is called hyperkalemia (6).

High blood concentrations of potassium can result in

  • Muscle weakness

and

  • Cardiac arrhythmias

Chronic damage to the kidneys and certain medications can also lead to the presence of high potassium levels in the body if dietary intake of potassium is not controlled.

 

Final word

Potassium is an essential mineral and it performs several important functions in the body. It is the main cation in the intracellular fluid and is important for functions such as regulation of acid base balance. Therefore, ensure that you include fruits and vegetable which are good sources of potassium in your diet.

 

References

  1. Stone, M. S., Martyn, L., & Weaver, C. M. (2016) Potassium Intake, Bioavailability, Hypertension, and Glucose Control, Nutrients. Vol. 8(7).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4963920/

  1. Lanham-New, S.A., Lambert, H. and Frassetto, L. (2012) Potassium, Advances in Nutrition. Vol. 3(6).

https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/3/6/820/4644562

  1. Elson, M. and Haas, M.D. (2011) Role of Potassium in Maintaining Health, periodic paralyses international.

https://hkpp.org/patients/potassium-health

  1. Weaver, C. M. (2013) Potassium and health, Advances in nutrition.Vol.4 (3).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3650509/

  1. Wildman, R. (2009) The Nutritionist-Food, Nutrition, and Optimal Health, The Minerals of Our Body: 233. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group. Second Edition. New York and London.
  2. Hoskote, S. S., Joshi, S.R. and Ghosh, A.K. (2008) Disorders of Potassium Homeostasis, Pathophysiology and Management, J Assoc Physicians India. 56.

http://japi.org/september_2008/r_685.pdf

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your email address will not be published.Required fields are marked *

Looks good!
Please Enter Your Comment
Looks good!
Please Enter Your Name
Looks good!
Please Enter Your valid Email Id