Potassium In A Banana Or Avocado Could Help Reduce Heart Attack And Strokes

Potassium reduces risk of heart attack and stroke. Bananas isolated on white background.
Potassium in natural foods like bananas and avocados shown to reduce risk of heart attack and stroke. Copyright: yurakp / 123RF Stock Photo

Potassium is one of those minerals which we need to make sure we get enough of. If we don’t, we lay ourselves open to heart attack and stroke and also kidney damage.

Some of the best natural sources are bananas and avocado. It wouldn’t be a health story in some ways if eating these two foods wasn’t mentioned. Other foods rich in this mineral include fish and poultry, potatoes, broccoli, sprouts and seeds.

The new research conducted by the University of Alabama looked at potassium levels in mice and found any foods high in the mineral could stop fatal artery blockages forming. Potassium also appeared to inhibit the hardening and narrowing of arteries.

The mice used in this study were susceptible to heart disease. These mice were fed either low, normal or high levels of potassium. The results showed that the arteries of mice fed a low-potassium diet became significantly harder. However, mice on a higher potassium diet had substantially less hardening of their arteries and reduced stiffness in their aorta.

It is a well known fact that sufficient levels of potassium prevent heart attack and stroke but there has not been enough evidence presented on the mechanisms behind this finding. One feature is that arteries harden through calcification and it is thought the presence of potassium alters this in a positive sense. The process of calcification begins to occur when levels of this mineral rise in various tissues such as body tissue, blood vessels and organs. The hardening or stiffening of the arteries is called arteriosclerosis. The stiffness of arteries influences how hard the heart has to work to pump blood through the body.

A potassium rich diet also reduces the risk of aortic stiffness which is a classic cardiovascular risk factor. There is now interest in knowing to what extent potassium levels have on preventing hardening, calcification and promoting elasticity of arterial structures. It could mean new therapies exploiting potassium use. There is also a suggestion that too low a potassium level in the body means genes which produce structural proteins and enzymes involved in maintaining elasticity of arteries are not expressed properly.

It is worth pointing out though that too much potassium in the diet produces stomach complaints, nausea and diarrhoea. We see this situation often seen with sports people who over supplement and use too many potassium-rich drinks.

The recommended dietary advice is to consume 3,500mg of potassium each day. Roughly, a quarter of this amount is met by eating two bananas.

The research is published in the Journal JCI Insight.


JCI Insight. (2017) 2(19):e94920. doi:10.1172/jci.insight.94920.




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