Potassium supplements, therapeutic uses of supplements

Potassium is one of the most commonly prescribed minerals. It is used in situations where body potassium is decreased, such as during diuretic drugs therapy.

High blood pressure

Many studies have found potassium supplements to have beneficial effects in the treatment of high blood pressure. Doses involved usually range from 2.5 to 5 g. In people with normal blood pressure, those who are salt sensitive or who have a family history of hypertension appear to benefit most from potassium supplementation. The greatest blood pressure-lowering effect of potassium supplements occurs in patients with severe hypertension. This effect is pronounced with prolonged potassium supplementation. Potassium may help to lower blood pressure in several ways, including enhancing sodium excretion, by directly dilating blood vessels, or lowering cardiovascular reactivity to body chemicals which constrict blood vessels.

A1997 analysis of studies on the effects of potassium supplementation on blood pressure confirms that low intake of the mineral plays an important role in high blood pressure, and increasing intake is beneficial in treatment. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University looked at 33 randomized controlled trials with over 2069 participants in which potassium supplements were used. Positive effects were seen with a decrease in mean systolic pressure of 3.11 mm Hg and in diastolic pressure of 1.97 mm Hg. The effects were enhanced in those exposed to a high intake of sodium.

In a study published in 1998 in the American Heart Association journal, Hypertension, researchers at the Harvard School of Public health tested the effects of potassium, calcium and magnesium supplements on 300 women (average age 39 years) whose dietary intakes of those minerals were low. The women had blood pressure in the normal range. The women were divided into five groups: the calcium (1200 mg per day), magnesium (336 mg per day) and potassium (1600 mg per day) groups; a group who received all three supplements; and a placebo group. The result showed that potassium supplements lowered blood pressure whereas calcium and magnesium supplements did not. The results also showed that those in the three supplements group had smaller falls in blood pressure than those in the potassium group. The researchers speculate that calcium and magnesium might in some way interfere with the blood pressure- lowering effect of potassium.

Potassium supplements, therapeutic uses of supplementsCardiovascular disease

High rates of potassium intake are associated with protection from cardiovascular disease, including stroke, in people in both developing and industrialized countries who eat diets high in unrefined whole grains and vegetables. Potassium may protect against cardiovascular diseases in a number of ways: by reducing free radical formation; proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells; platelet aggregation; and blood clotting. Potassium supplements are used to treat heart arrhythmias.

Kidney stones

Higher potassium intakes may be beneficial in preventing kidney stones formation. Researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers in Northern California have found that giving potassium-magnesium citrate to kidney stone sufferers reduces the risk of them developing further stones. The stones were of the calcium oxalate type. In the double-blind study reported in the Journal of Urology, 64 patients were given either a placebo or the potassium-magnesium citrate compound for up to three years. New kidney stones occurred in 63.6 per cent of the patients taking placebo, but in only 12.9 per cent of those taking the potassium-magnesium citrate compound.

Other uses

Potassium supplements may be of benefit in early menopause to combat fatigue and mood swings. It can also be used to treat infant colic, allergies and headache. During and after diarrhea, potassium replacement may be necessary.

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