We have all heard that minerals are vital for a healthy body. But knowing which mineral to take to ensure optimum health can be confusing. There are so many minerals, all of which have benefits. Let us consider one mineral that is a basic necessity – Potassium.
Potassium is an essential dietary mineral and electrolyte. The term electrolyte refers to a substance that dissociates into ions (charged particles) in solution, making it capable of conducting electricity. Normal body function depends on tight regulation of potassium concentrations both inside and outside of cells. Healthy skin, your physical and mental well-being are also dependent on the correct fluid balance of sodium and potassium.
Potassium is the principal positively charged ion in the fluid inside of cells, while sodium is the principal in the fluid outside of cells. Potassium concentrations are about 30 times higher inside than outside cells, while sodium concentrations are more than ten times lower inside than outside cells.
How does potassium help keep your body healthy?
In a prospective study of dietary potassium intake, 43,000 men were followed for eight years. The study found that men in the top 1/5th of median potassium intake, 4,300 mg per day, were only 62 percent as likely to have a stroke than those in the lower 1/5th median potassium intake, 2,400 mg per day.
At least four cross-sectional studies have reported significant positive associations between dietary potassium intake and bone mineral density (BMD) in populations of premenopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal women, as well as elderly men.
Abnormally high urinary calcium (hypercalciuria) increases the risk of developing kidney stones. Increasing dietary potassium (and alkalai) intake by eating more fruits and vegetables, or by taking potassium bicarbonate supplements, has been found to decrease urinary calcium excretion. The reverse, potassium deprivation, has also been found to increase urinary calcium excretion.
A more common issue that may arise due to potassium deficiency is leg cramping, or “charley horse.” Because electrolyte imbalances can cause cramping, some blood may be analyzed to ensure the levels of potassium and other electrolytes are normal.
Supplementing your diet with potassium can help minimize the occurrence of many health challenges. It is important to check the labels to be sure that you are getting high quality minerals. Considering whether to take pills, capsules or liquid minerals is crucial in order to ensure your body will absorb and use the mineral for its intended benefit.
Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University Micronutrient Information Center
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Tucker KL, Hannan MT, Chen H, Cupples LA, Wilson PW, Kiel DP. Potassium, magnesium, and fruit and vegetable intakes are associated with greater bone mineral density in elderly men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999; 69(4):727-736
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Trinchieri A, Zanetti G, Curro A, Lizzano R. Effect of potential renal acid load of foods on calcium metabolism of renal calcium stone formers. Eur Urol. 2001; 39 Suppl 2:33-36.
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