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Tim Kelleher


News & Views

Potassium Protects Against Stroke

A diet high in potassium is associated with lower rates of stroke and might also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and total cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to research published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2010.09.070).

The meta-analysis compiled prospective adult population studies published from 1966 to 2009, all of which included assessment of baseline potassium intake, assessment of vascular events as outcome, and follow-up of at least 4 years. Relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were extracted and pooled using a random-effect model, weighted for the inverse of the variance. Heterogeneity, publication bias, subgroup, and meta-regression analyses were performed.

Eleven studies were identified, providing 15 cohort samples that included 247,510 male and female participants (follow-up 5 to 19 years), 7,066 strokes, 3,058 CHD events, and 2,497 total CVD events. Potassium intake was assessed by 24-hour dietary recall (n=2), food frequency questionnaire (n=6), or 24-hour urinary excretion (n=3).

In the pooled analysis, a 1.64 g (42 mmol) per day higher potassium intake was associated with a 21% lower risk of stroke (RR: 0.79; 95% CI: 0.68 to 0.90; p=0.0007), with a trend toward lower risk of CHD and total CVD that attained statistical significance after the exclusion of a single cohort, based on sensitivity analysis (RR: 0.93; 95% CI: 0.87 to 0.99; p=0.03 and RR: 0.74; 95% CI: 0.60 to 0.91; p=0.0037).

The authors observe that the projected risk reduction would be comparable to that expected from lower salt intake, “translated into a reduction of as many as 1,155,000 stroke deaths per year on a worldwide scale and is expected to produce overall health benefits by reducing the impact of disability”.

They conclude by asserting that these results apply to the general population, not only to specific subgroups at higher risk, and that the favorable effects of dietary potassium were documented at least to some extent independently of other factors. Efforts should be made, they say, “to favour the synergy with other nutritional- or lifestyle-related preventive measures”.

Published on: April 6, 2011

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