Potassium is an essential mineral, regulating heartbeat, nerve conduction and muscle contraction. It is recommended that a healthy diet include 4,500 to 6,500 mg of potassium daily. It is well understood that in excess of 6,500 mg daily, dietary potassium has no adverse effects. It is found in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. Healthy whole foods contain a ratio of approximately 9 to 1 of potassium over sodium, yet, processed foods reverse this ratio. This being so, regular consumption of processed foods will result in the consumption of excess sodium intake and insufficient potassium intake.
In a new study researchers from the European Regional Expert Group on Cardiovascular Disease identified 11 studies with a total number of 247,510 male and female participants, who were followed for 5 to 19 years (D'Elia, Barba, Cappuccio, Strazzullo, 2011) . In this study, researchers evaluated the risk of heart disease and stroke relative to the intake of potassium. During the follow-up periods (every 4 years), they found 7,066 cases of stroke, 3,058 episodes of coronary heart disease, and 2,479 total vascular disease events.
It was found that for every increase of 1,640 mg of potassium, stroke risk declined by 21 percent, and there was a trend for lower cardiovascular events. This result is not clearly related to the potassium itself, as the foods that contain potassium contain additional nutrients that elicit similiar health benefits.
D'Elia, L., Barba, G., Cappuccio, F.P. & Strazzullo, P. 2011. Potassium intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Journal of American College of Cardiology, 57, 1210-1219.