Sources: World Health Organization; BBC Health News; British Medical Journal

whollyguacamoleTHE World Health Organisation has issued its first guidelines on potassium intake, recommending that adults should consume more than 4g of potassium (or 90 to 100mmol) per day.  This follows recent publication in the British Medical Journal which adds to the body of evidence suggesting that increasing potassium in our diets as well as cutting down on salt will reduce blood pressure levels and the risk of stroke.

The BMJ study on the effects of potassium intake, produced by scientists from the UN World Food Programme, Imperial College London and Warwick Medical School, among others, looked at 22 controlled trials and another 11 studies involving more than 128,000 healthy participants.  Results showed that increasing potassium in the diet to 3-4g a day reduced blood pressure in adults.  Increased potassium intake was also linked to a 24% lower risk of stroke.

Potassium is an important mineral that controls the balance of fluids in the body and helps lower blood pressure.  It is found in most types of food, but particularly in fruit, such as bananas, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds, milk, fish, chicken and bread.  For the first time the WHO has recommended that adults consume around 4g of potassium a day (or at least 90-100mmol) which is equal to five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Our early ancestors would have had a diet very high in potassium – but food processing has markedly reduced the potassium content of food.  The modern diet centers on grains -the anchor of the food pyramid, including bread, one of the biggest sources of salt into our diet.  It is thought that the average potassium consumption in many countries is below 70-80mmol/day.

The World Health Organisation recommends that adults should not consume more than 5g of salt a day (about one teaspoon).