Potassium-rich diet

People who eat plenty of high-potassium fruits, vegetables and dairy products may be less likely to suffer a stroke than those who get little of the mineral, a new study suggests.

The findings, reported online in Stroke, come from an analysis of 10 international studies involving more than 200,000 middle-aged and older adults.

Across those studies, stroke risk dipped as reported potassium intake went up. For each 1,000 mg increase in daily potassium, the odds of suffering a stroke in the next five to 14 years declined by 11%.

That would translate into a modest benefit for any one person, the researchers say. And the findings do not prove that potassium, itself, is what produces the positive effect.

But they strengthen existing evidence that it might, said lead researcher Dr Susanna C. Larsson, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

Since high-potassium foods are generally healthy ones - including beans, a variety of fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy - the findings offer one more reason for people to eat more of them, Dr Larsson said.

Reduced risk of ischemic strokes

Overall, 8,695 people (about one in 30) suffered a stroke. But the drop in stroke risk seen with every 1,000-mg increase in daily potassium was after adjusting for factors such as age, exercise habits and smoking.

Potassium was specifically linked to reduced risk of ischemic strokes, but not to hemorrhagic stroke risk. It's not clear why that is, according to Dr Larsson, who noted that only a few of the studies actually broke strokes down into subtypes.

If potassium protects against ischemic stroke only, that would suggest there are reasons other than better blood pressure control, the researchers say. The findings are in line with a recent study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that followed more than 12,000 adults for 15 years.

In that study, researchers found that people who had high sodium but little potassium intake were more likely to die from any cause during the study period.

(Reuters Health, Amy Norton, August 2011) 

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