The potassium is an essential mineral that provides several vital functions in the body. Like sodium and chlorine, it is an electrolyte.
These are its main functions in the body.
Potassium: how to avoid the lack of potassium? : understand everything in 2 min
- It works closely with sodium to maintain acid-base balance of the body and that of fluids. It controls the level of fluids and the pH inside cells, while sodium does the same thing outside cells.
- It is essential for the transmission of nerve impulses.
- It is essential to the muscle contraction, including that of the heart muscle.
- It participates in the proper functioning of kidneys and adrenal glands.
- It contributes to numerous enzymatic reactions, protein synthesis and carbohydrate metabolism, among others.
The benefits of potassium
- Preventing and treating hypokalemia
- Prevent and treat hypertension
- Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypercalciuria (kidney stones), osteoporosis
- Reduce dental pain
Generally, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides adequate amounts of potassium and achieves the daily intakes mentioned below. However, the average potassium intake of Canadians and Americans is insufficient. While it should be 4,700 mg per day, it is estimated to be only 2,300 mg in women and 3,100 mg in men.
In 2004, the health authorities of both countries significantly increased the recommended intakes potassium (see table below). These intakes are based on the amounts deemed necessary to lower blood pressure, compensate for the harmful effects of excess sodium on the latter, reduce the risk of kidney stones and possibly reduce bone loss.
|Adequate potassium intake *|
|0 to 6 months||400 mg|
|7 to 12 months||700 mg|
|1 to 3 years||3000 mg|
|from 4 to 8 years old||3,800 mg|
|9 to 13 years old||4,500 mg|
|14 and over||4,700 mg|
|Pregnant women||4,700 mg|
|Nursing women||5 100 mg|
Source: Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Potassium. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. National Academies Press, United States, 2004. These data are the result of a consensus between Canadian and American authorities.
* Sufficient intake: in the absence of adequate scientific data, the authorities fixed, not a recommended nutritional intake (ANR), but an adequate intake (AS). Adequate potassium intake is based on average intakes in healthy North Americans.
Foods high in potassium
All foods contain potassium, especially fruits and vegetables. The table below provides a non-exhaustive list of those who are the richest. Other dietary sources of this mineral are mentioned in our Potassium Nutrient Ranking section.
|Cooked white beans||250 ml (1 cup)||1,061 mg|
|Potato with peel, baked||1 medium (175 g)||926-952 mg|
|Canned clams||100 g (3 ½ oz) (13 medium)||628 mg|
|Potato without the skin, baked||1 medium (155 g)||610 mg|
|Mashed tomatoes, canned||125 ml (1/2 cup)||580 mg|
|Halibut fillet, baked or grilled||100 g (3 ½ oz)||576 mg|
|Winter squash (butternut, peppery, hubbard), cooked||125 ml (1/2 cup)||308-478 mg|
|Boiled spinach||125 ml (1/2 cup)||443 mg|
|Plain yogurt, 0% to 4% fat||175 ml (3/4 cup)||386-431 mg|
|Banana||1 medium (120 g)||422 mg|
Symptoms of potassium deficiency
The potassium deficiency is manifested by tired, muscle weakness and cramps, intestinal laziness, bloating, abdominal pain and constipation.
If an insufficient intake potassium is frequent, it can lead to real deficiency (hypokalemia). Severe hypokalemia can lead to muscle paralysis and arrhythmia. Generally, an adequate food intake of potassium is enough to make up for the deficit, but severe cases require the intervention of a doctor.
However, as mentioned above, the potassium and the sodium work in tandem with the organization. However, modern food, particularly rich in sodium, increases the potassium requirements. It has been found that in some primitive cultures, we consume 7 to 10 times more potassium than sodium, while in industrialized societies, we absorb 2 to 3 times more sodium than potassium. Nowadays, the body would need more potassium to keep its pH at an acceptable level.
Hypokalemia. Hypokalemia is an important deficiency in vitamin K having several causes: low intake of vitamin K, significant excretion of vitamin K, use of certain medication (diuretics, excessive use of laxatives), profuse vomiting, prolonged diarrhea, eating disorders (anorexia / bulimia) or alcoholism. The recommended doses for the prevention and treatment of hypokalemia are 10-40mEq and 40-100mEq, respectively, in adults (as potassium chloride intravenously). These doses are respectively 1-2mEq / kg / day and 2-5mEq / kg / day orally in children (under 18 years of age).
Hypertension. Epidemiological studies have reported an association between a low potassium diet and increased blood pressure, suggesting that potassium supplementation may lower blood pressure and effectively treat hypertention. On the other hand, other studies have established a link between a diet rich in potassium and a reduced risk of hypertension. However, a meta-analysis did not show the effectiveness of potassium intake. More research is needed to confirm the protective effects of potassium on hypertension.
Cardiovascular illnesses. A study of 2,275 individuals showed that increased intake of potassium a reduction in the consumption of sodium reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is why Health Canada authorizes the following health claim for foods containing at least 350 mg potassium per serving and low in sodium: “A healthy diet including foods high in potassium and low in sodium can reduce the risk of hypertension, risk factor for stroke and heart disease. “. The US Food and Drug Administration allows a similar claim. In addition, another team of researchers suggests that the protective effects of fruits and vegetables on the vascular system are attributable to their high potassium content. This high potassium content is also responsible for a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a meta-analysis of 11 studies and including nearly 350,000 participants.
Stroke. There is an association between low blood potassium levels and an increased risk of stroke, especially in patients treated with diuretics and suffering from atrial fibrillation. On the other hand, this risk of stroke appears to be reduced in people with high blood potassium levels.
Hypercalciuria (high levels of calcium in the urine). Potassium citrate has some effectiveness, when combined with magnesium, in the formation of recurrent kidney stones. Study also reported that potassium phosphate lowers blood calcium levels in those with hypercalciuria, a factor that promotes urinary stones. These results are to be confirmed.
Bone density and osteoporosis. Researchers have observed a link between a high food intake potassium and better bone density, in women but also in healthy children. Clinical study has also shown that high potassium intake can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Researchers believe, among other hypotheses, that a diet rich in potassium is beneficial for bone health thanks to its alkalizing effect. Indeed, when you eat too much of food such as meat, cheese and fish, the body becomes acidic. If the body lacks potassium to neutralize this acidity, it uses calcium. But as the body draws this calcium from the bones, it weakens them.
Dental pain. Meta-analyzes investigating the reducing effects of potassium salts on dental pain have reported mixed results. No conclusions can be drawn from these results.
- Potassium supplementation should be done under the supervision of a health care practitioner. Indeed, there are several contraindications and adverse effects associated with these supplements. In addition, many interactions are possible, since several drugs can cause an excess (hyperkalemia) or a deficiency (hypokalemia) in potassium.
- In Canada and the United States, to avoid the dangers of an overdose, potassium and multivitamin supplements generally contain a small amount of potassium considered safe, less than 100 mg.