A review of the available worldwide evidence on the effects of increased potassium in our diets was recently carried out.1 The review specifically examined how higher potassium intake could reduce the risk of having a heart attack in healthy adults.
There is plenty of evidence to show that boosting your potassium intake to the recommended daily level (3,500mg) is associated with a drop in your blood pressure compared to lower intake levels; however, only people with high blood pressure experienced this effect. Further findings from nine observational studies indicated that a higher intake of potassium could reduce stroke risk by 24%.
You are what you eat
A balanced diet that includes plenty of fruit (particularly bananas), beef, bread, fish, milk, nuts, poultry, pulses, seeds and vegetables should provide you with all the potassium your body requires. However, too much potassium can be harmful particularly if you are already taking certain blood pressure drugs or have kidney disease.
This study supports the recommended daily amount of potassium but cannot draw any conclusions about the impact of increased potassium intake for children, nor can the results be applied to people with impaired kidney function. There are certain medications that may impair your ability to control potassium and tests for these were not included in the review.
Before you rush out to buy bananas or potassium pills, it always makes sense to check in with your doctor and take their advice first.
1. Anurto NJ, Hanson S, Gutierrez H, et al. Effect of increased potassium intake on cardiovascular risk factors and disease: systematic review and meta-analyses. BMJ. Published online 5 April 2013. He FJ, Li J, MacGregor GA. Effect of longer term modest salt reduction on blood pressure: Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trials. BMJ. Published online 5 April 2013