A Need for Bananas? Dietary Potassium Regulates Calcification of Arteries

Source: University of Alabama, Birmingham

Summary: Researchers found that foods rich in potassium such as bananas and avocados may protect against vascular calcification (hardening of arteries).

Diets which are low in potassium may lead to calcified arteries and can cause stiffness in arteries. This arterial stiffness in humans helps to predict heart diseases and also represents major health problem. Researchers from the University of Alabama, Birmingham found for the first time that increase in dietary potassium levels decreases vascular calcification and aortic stiffness. This entire study was done in mouse models and published in the journal JCI Insight. Therefore to protect against heart diseases consider increasing intake potassium-rich foods such as bananas, avocados, spinach, carrot and oranges.

Dietary Potassium

Dietary potassium could help to protect against heart disease.

The mechanism of vascular disease is explored in three ways – living mice fed diets that varied in potassium; mouse artery cross-sections studied in culture medium with varying concentrations of potassium; and mouse vascular smooth muscle cells were grown in culture medium. When the researchers observed at the arterial cross-sections they found a direct effect of potassium on arterial calcification inside the arterial rings. Arterial rings with high potassium have inhibited calcification and with low potassium showed enhanced calcification. In addition, the researchers also found the molecular mechanism behind the effects of low and high dietary potassium levels.

Paul Sanders, co-author of the study said, “The findings have important translational potential since they demonstrate the benefit of adequate potassium supplementation on prevention of vascular calcification in atherosclerosis-prone mice, and the adverse effect of low potassium intake.”

More Information: Young Sun et al, “Dietary potassium regulates vascular calcification and arterial stiffness”, JCI Insight (2017). DOI: 10.1172/jci.insight.94920

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