Potassium: General Info

Potassium is a mineral that is necessary in a healthy, balanced diet. It has the ability to associate into ions and therefore conduct electricity; for this reason, it is known as an electrolyte. The severe deficiency of potassium is known as hypokalemia, and can produce muscular paralysis and cardiac arrhythmias that can be fatal. The symptoms of hypokalemia may include fatigue, muscle weakness, cramps, bloating, constipation, and abdominal pain. When experiencing these symptoms, it is important to consult your health care provider before beginning a program that involves nutritional supplements.

A diet rich in potassium has been associated with the prevention of certain diseases including stroke, osteoporosis, and kidney stones. These claims are backed by scientific studies. One study showed that men with potassium intake in the top 20% of the population were less likely to suffer a stroke than those who ingested less potassium. Osteoporosis prevention has also been associated with adequate intake of potassium. Studies on both men and women of all ages showed a positive correlation between bone mineral density and potassium levels. Kidney stones are also less likely to develop when there is adequate potassium intake. Potassium decreases urinary calcium secretions, which makes kidney stones less likely to form.

How much potassium do you need

Children of up to six months in age require .4 grams of potassium per day while children from seven months to one year require .7 grams a day. Children of age one to three need 3 grams a day, while children ages four to eight require 3.8 grams a day. Older children of age nine to 13 require 4.5 grams a day. Children over the age of 13 and adults require 4.7 grams a day. Breastfeeding women need a little more potassium, and should aim for 5.1 grams a day. Fruits and vegetables are some of the best sources of potassium. Other foods rich in potassium include bananas, prunes, oranges, tomatoes and spinach.