Potassium deficiency is widespread
VLAARDINGEN, THE NETHERLANDS. A group of Dutch researchers has summarized data regarding potassium intake in 21 countries. They found that China had the lowest average intake at 1.7 g/day, while Poland, Finland and the Netherlands averaged 3.7 g/day. The USA came in at 2.8 g/day and Canada averaged 3.0 g/day. In view of the fact that the recommended daily intake of potassium is 4.7 g (4700 mg), it is clear that a large part of the world's population is deficient.

The researchers calculate that achieving the recommended intake of 4700 mg/day of elemental potassium could reduce systolic blood pressure an average of 3 mm Hg and reduce the number of men with a systolic pressure above 140 mm Hg by 2 to 5% with an expected 4% reduction among women. Perhaps even more important, they estimate that attaining optimum potassium levels could reduce the risk of stroke mortality by 8 to 15% and that of heart disease mortality by 6 to 11%. It would take a reduction of 4 g/day of salt intake to achieve the same effect.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Linda van Mierlo, was asked if potassium supplementation would be a viable approach to increasing intake. She said that this is a possibility "because in studies where they have given potassium supplements they did find lower blood pressure, but she cautions that it has been shown that the particular salt of potassium consumed is key. The anion seems to be important, with evidence that potassium chloride is less effective than potassium citrate, for example."

van Mierlo, LAJ, et al. Suboptimal potassium intake and potential impact on population blood pressure. Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 170, No. 16, September 13, 2010, pp. 1501-02

Editor's comment: Attaining the recommended daily intake of potassium (4700 mg/day) is clearly important for afibbers, not only because doing so has been found to significantly reduce ectopics and even afib episodes, but also because it reduces blood pressure and the risk of stroke and heart attack.