Potassium: Bananas lower blood pressure in women
Potassium, which is found in abundance in bananas, for example, can cushion the negative effects of a high-salt diet, especially for women.
Humans have an innate appetite for salt: Salt is essential to life but was once hard to come by. Today it is found in abundance in many finished products because the seasoning encourages consumption.
But the body is not prepared for such amounts of salt: too much sodium chloride, the chemical name for table salt, drives up blood pressure.
Scientists around Liffert Vogt from the University Hospital Amsterdam (UMC) have now found a way to counteract this without giving up salt – at least as a woman.
Potassium promotes the excretion of sodium
A high-potassium diet increases the excretion of sodium through the kidneys. And the latter element is the actual blood pressure driver. According to the study, women who eat a high-potassium diet have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
The researchers evaluated data from the EPIC-Norfolk study. In the period from 1993 to 1997, scientists analysed urine samples from 24,963 family doctor patients (11,267 men and 13,696 women) aged 40 to 79 years.
This can be used to calculate the daily excretion of sodium and potassium – and thus roughly the corresponding intake of the two minerals through food.
1 gram of potassium = minus 2.4 mmHg
The result: women, who belonged to the third with the highest potassium consumption, had lower blood pressure values. For every gram of extra potassium added each day, the systolic reading of their blood pressure dropped by 2.4 mmHg. The researchers observed no corresponding effect in men.
One possible explanation for this gender difference is that women are more responsive to sodium—they are more salt-sensitive. A counteracting influence could be correspondingly more sustainable.
High blood pressure – causes
What is behind the high pressure in the blood vessels. And how you can influence your blood pressure yourself.
11 percent fewer cardiovascular events
In the subsequent observation period of around 20 years on average, it was confirmed that a high potassium intake actually protected the female participants from cardiovascular diseases. Women in the highest potassium intake group had an 11 percent reduced risk of having a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke.
The Dutch research team took into account influencing factors such as age, gender, BMI, salt intake, smoking, alcohol consumption, diabetes, intake of lipid-lowering drugs and suffered heart attacks or strokes in the calculations.
3.5 grams of potassium daily
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults consume at least 3.5 grams of potassium per day. Foods rich in potassium include dried fruit, avocados, bananas, salmon and potatoes.
So-called “blood pressure salt”, in which part of the sodium chloride is replaced by potassium chloride, can support a potassium-rich diet – and have a correspondingly protective effect. This applied to both men and women. This was shown by a large Chinese study last year (NetDoktor reported: Potassium chloride: “Blood pressure salt” protects the heart).
However, people with kidney disease should rather limit their potassium intake.
Fortunately, UAE residents are blessed with a vast choice of bananas of all sized and even colours from India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Caribbean and Africa but also closer to home from Oman, so the world’s favourite fruit, is always cheap and in plentiful supply. Enjoy!