Diet Rich in Potassium Linked to Lower Blood Pressure

Alicia McDonough, Ph.D.

Alicia McDonough, Ph.D.

Research from Keck School of Medicine of USC researcher Alicia McDonough, Ph.D., could lead to a simple and tasty way to lower blood pressure. “Decreasing sodium intake is a well-established way to lower blood pressure, but evidence suggests that increasing dietary potassium may have an equally important effect on hypertension,” says McDonough.

Examining the link between blood pressure and dietary sodium and potassium, McDonough reveals the clever balancing act behind potassium’s blood pressure benefits. Potassium maintains normal heart, nerve, and, muscle function, and the body carefully controls blood levels of this major electrolyte using sodium. McDonough explains, “When dietary potassium is high, kidneys excrete more salt and water, which increases potassium excretion. Eating a high potassium diet is like taking a diuretic.” The result is lower blood pressure!

While eating more potassium-rich fruits and vegetables can help lower blood pressure, eating a diet low in potassium and high in sodium can raise blood pressure. In this instance, the body retains both sodium and potassium.

Dr. McDonough’s research has far-reaching implications for better health world-wide. High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney disease. Fewer cases of high blood pressure would mean fewer cases of kidney disease. McDonough would like to see public policy encouraging a healthy diet with plenty of potassium—about 4.7 grams per day—from fruits and vegetables. Good sources of potassium include sweet potatoes, white potatoes, watermelon, avocados, spinach, beans, bananas, and butternut squash.

Sources:

Fruits and Vegetables’ Latest Superpower? Lowering Blood Pressure, EurekAlert, April 5, 2017

Cardiovascular benefits associated with higher dietary K+ vs. lower dietary Na+: evidence from population and mechanistic studies, American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, April 4, 2017

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