Potassium beneficial in chronic kidney damage

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While many kidney patients maintain a potassium-restricted diet due to the risk of hyperpotassium, there is growing evidence that high potassium intake slows the decline of renal function. Stanley Yeung, AIOS at the Martini Hospital in Groningen, conducted doctoral research into the effect of taking extra potassium-rich foods on serum phosphate, among other things. He concludes that a high potassium intake may be a good treatment for kidney patients.

Potassium: Good or Dangerous?

According to the current guidelines In patients with chronic kidney disease (CNS), the aim is to have a serum potassium below 5.5 mmol/l, because a high serum potassium can lead to cardiac arrhythmias and is associated with mortality and cardiovascular events. On the other hand patients with CNS may also benefit from the healthy effects of potassium. They often have high blood pressure and a higher risk of strokes and heart attacks. Potassium reduces the risk of this and thus also the risk of rapid deterioration of kidney function.

Risks with low potassium intake

Poor kidney function leads to disturbances in the metabolism, which, among other things, lead to increased concentrations of phosphate and the hormone fibroblast growth factor (FGF23) in the blood. Yeung analyzed the potassium levels in 24-hour urine, as a measure of dietary potassium intake, among others in a group of healthy test subjects and patients with CNS. This showed that a low potassium intake co-occurs with high FGF23 levels and that both increased the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and premature death.

Potassium supplementation

However, people with high potassium intake had lower levels of FGF23 in their blood. That is why Yeung also investigated whether prescribing potassium supplements could lower FGF23 levels. This was indeed the case in both healthy subjects and patients with CNS. The supplements gave a small but significant decrease. According to Yeung, this result offers starting points for further research into potassium as a possible treatment for cardiovascular disease in kidney patients.

Yeung’s dissertation can be read here: ‘Potassium intake, fibroblast growth factor 23 and clinical outcomes

Source: University of Groningen

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