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What is potassium?
Potassium is an essential mineral that is involved in both
electrical and cellular functions. Although it is a mineral,
in the body it is classified as an electrolyte. It is the
primary electrolyte found in intracellular fluid.
Why do we need it?
Potassium is an important factor in the regulation of water
balance, acid-base levels and blood pressure. It plays a vital
role in the transmission of nerve impulses and the building
of muscle tissue. It is also required for carbohydrate and
How much potassium should I take?
According to the National Academy of Sciences, the recommended
daily allowance (RDA) for potassium is as follows:
- Adult men: 2000 milligrams/day
- Adult women: 2000 milligrams/day
- Children aged 7-10: 1600 milligrams/day
- Infants: between 500-700 milligrams/day
- Pregnant/lactating women: 2000 milligrams/day
some good sources of potassium?
Fish such as salmon, cod, flounder, and sardines are good
sources of potassium. Vegetables such as broccoli, peas, lima
beans, tomatoes, potatoes (especially potato skins), and leafy
green vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and parsley contain
potassium. Apples, bananas and apricots are also good sources
(dried apricots contain more potassium than fresh apricots).
happen if I don't get enough potassium?
Potassium deficiency is uncommon in the United States. However,
a variety of factors can cause the loss of potassium from
the body, including vomiting, diarrhea, and the taking of
certain diuretic drugs.
Moderate potassium deficiency can result in a variety of
conditions, including hypertension, congestive heart failure,
cardiac arrhythmias, depression and fatigue. Severe deficiency
may cause decreased heart rate, extreme muscle weakness, bone
fragility and, if left untreated, death.
What can happen if I take
Excess potassium intake can cause a condition called hyperkalemia.
Symptoms include weakness, irregular heartbeat, a slow or
absent pulse, paralysis, kidney failure and, in extreme cases,
Other Resources :
More You Know About Minerals
More You Know About Nutrition
Recommended Dietary Allowances,
10th ed. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1989.
Whelton PK, et al. Effects of oral potassium on blood
pressure. JAMA 1997;277:1624-1632.
Sacks FM, Willett WC, Smith A, Brown LE, Rosner B,
Moore TJ. Effect on blood pressure of potassium, calcium,
and magnesium in women with low habitual intake. Hypertension
Young DB, Lin H, McCabe RD. Potassium's cardiovascular
protective mechanisms. Am J Physiol Apr 1995;268(4 Pt 2):R825-R837.
Ettinger B, et al. Potassium magnesium citrate is
an effective prophylaxis against recurrent calcium oxalate
nephrolithiasis. Journal of Urology 1997;158:2069-73.