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Eating Potassium-Rich Foods Could Help Lower Blood Pressure, Study Shows

Apr 06, 2017 12:28 PM EDT
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The researchers noted that the kidneys excrete more salt and water when the level of dietary potassium in the blood is high.
(Photo : Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

A new study from the University of Southern California's Keth School of Medicine revealed that a higher intake of dietary potassium could help lower blood pressure.

The study, published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, explored the link between dietary sodium, potassium, blood pressure and sodium-potassium ratio. The study also investigated the effects of dietary sodium and potassium on hypertension.

"Decreasing sodium intake is a well-established way to lower blood pressure," said Alicia McDonough, Ph.D., professor of cell and neurobiology at USC's Keth School of Medicine, in a press release. "But evidence suggests that increasing dietary potassium may have an equally important effect on hypertension."

Foods that are rich in potassium include bananas, sweet potatoes, avocados, spinach and beans.

For the study, the researchers studied several population, interventional and molecular mechanism studies that analyzed the link between sodium, potassium and lower blood pressure. During their analysis, the researchers found several population studies associating higher dietary potassium with lower blood pressure. At the same time, they noted some interventional studies with potassium supplementation, suggesting that potassium provides a direct benefit.

Recent molecular mechanism studies on rodent models showed that the body has the ability to maintain close control of potassium levels in the blood with the help of sodium. The researchers noted that the kidneys excrete more salt and water when the level of dietary potassium in the blood is high. They even likened eating a high potassium diet to taking a diuretic.

The body's ability to have a close control of the potassium levels in the blood is critical to normal heart, nerve and muscle function. A typical Western diet consists of high sodium, low potassium foods. When the body is low on dietary potassium, it uses sodium retention to hold onto limited potassium. Due to this, it will be like eating a higher sodium diet, which can significantly increase the risk of hypertension.

Over one billion people worldwide are living with hypertension. The World Health Organization estimates that hypertension is responsible for at least 51 percent of deaths due to stroke and 45 percent of deaths due to heart disease.

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