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A diet rich in potassium reduces the harmful effects of salt (which foods?)

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A diet rich in potassium could reduce the harmful effects of salt, according to a study published in July 2022 in theEuropean Heart Journala journal of the European Society of Cardiology.

It is well known that high salt intake is associated with high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.“, emphasizes Professor Liffert Vogt of the University Medical Center of Amsterdam (Netherlands).

Health advice has focused on limiting salt intake, but this is difficult to achieve when our diet includes processed foods. Potassium helps the body to excrete more sodium (salt) in the urine.»

The study involved 24,963 UK participants (11,267 men and 13,696 women, aged 40-79 with a mean age of 58.5) from the EPIC-Norfolk study. They completed a questionnaire on their lifestyle. Their blood pressure was measured and a urine sample was taken. Urinary sodium and potassium were used to estimate dietary intake. Participants were divided into tertiles according to sodium and potassium intakes (low/medium/high).

Potassium consumption was associated with blood pressure in women: as consumption increased, blood pressure decreased. When the association was analyzed based on sodium intake, the relationship between potassium and blood pressure was seen only in women with high sodium intake, where each one-gram increase in daily potassium was associated with a lower systolic blood pressure of 2.4 mmHg. In men, there was no association between potassium and blood pressure.

During a median follow-up of 19.5 years, 13,596 (55%) participants were hospitalized or died from cardiovascular disease. Researchers analyzed the association between potassium intake and cardiovascular events after adjusting for age, body mass index (healthy weight, overweight, obesity: quick calculation)sodium intake, use of lipid-lowering medications, smoking, alcohol consumption, diabetes, and history of heart attack or stroke.

Women and men in the highest tertile of potassium intake had an 11% and 7% lower risk of cardiovascular events, respectively, compared to people in the lowest tertile. The amount of salt in the diet did not influence the relationship between potassium and cardiovascular events in men or women.

The results suggest that potassium helps maintain heart health, but women benefit more than men. The relationship between potassium and cardiovascular events was the same regardless of salt intake, suggesting that potassium has other ways of protecting the heart besides increasing sodium excretion.»

The World Health Organization recommends that adults consume at least 3.5g of potassium and less than 2g of sodium (5g of salt) per day“, recalls the press release from the researchers.

The potassium rich foods include: vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, dairy products and fish.

For instance :

  • a 115 gram banana contains 375 mg of potassium;
  • 154 grams of cooked salmon contain 780 mg;
  • a potato of 136 grams contains 500 mg;
  • a cup of milk contains 375 mg. »

Our results indicate that a heart-healthy diet is not just limited to limiting salt, but also increasing potassium content. Food companies can help by replacing standard sodium-based salt with potassium-based salt in processed foods. Also, we should all favor fresh, unprocessed foods, as they are both high in potassium and low in salt.»

Potassium deficiency is common.

For more information on potassium and health, see the links below.

Psychomedia with sources: European Society of Cardiology, European Heart Journal.
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