The study found that the most beneficial level of daily potassium intake was between 90-120 mEq which reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure by approximately 7.2 mm Hg and 4.0 mm Hg, respectively. But hold it – the age old mantra of “too much of a good thing may not be good for you” applies here. Potassium intake at higher than 120 mEq per day, though still an improvement from baseline, saw minimal results in terms of lowering blood pressure. So, the key is to eat enough bananas to fall within 90-120 mEq but not a banana more (fyi that’s only 9-10 bananas). Researchers also found a meaningful decrease in incidence of stroke with higher potassium intake.
One caveat before suggesting the high potassium diet to everyone: significant effects in blood pressure lowering only occurred in those patients with hypertension.
If patients are hesitant about increasing the amount of bananas in their diet, there’s yet more good news: increasing potassium intake through dietary supplements is as equally effective as potassium ingested through dietary changes (1). Supplements are available with or without a prescription, but potassium levels should always be monitored before and during supplementation as other medications used for blood pressure or underlying kidney disease may already be increasing potassium levels.
Not crazy about bananas? Here are some alternatives you probably did not know were loaded with potassium(2):
· Yogurt, plain (1 cup): 14 mEq
· Avocado (one whole): 32 mEq
· Orange juice (4oz): 7 mEq
· Baked potato with skin: 21 mEq
An easy addition to any kitchen would be a salt substitute, which removes sodium and replaces it with up to 15-20 mEq of potassium per ¼ teaspoon. So… the lesson to be learned here? In addition to adding more bananas to the grocery list, a salt substitute (Morton salt substitute, NoSalt, Nu-Salt) should be as well.
1. Aburto NJ et al. Effect of increased potassium intake on cardiovascular risk factors and disease. Systematic review and meta-analyes. BMJ 2013 Apr 4; 346:f1378.
2. Potassium Content of Foods and Salt Substitutes. Pharmacists Letter. http://pharmacistsletter.therapeuticresearch.com/pl/41250136. Accessed May 22, 2013.
Posted By: Katie Yomen, PharmD. Candidate 2014