How much potassium is too much?

11 January 2018

An international collaboration to investigate why and how potassium can help lower blood pressure will be trialled at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane.

The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute’s Professor Michael Stowasser will lead the trial to investigate why blood pressure is so sensitive to dietary potassium.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the single greatest contributor to premature death and disability in the world.

“High dietary salt consumption has long been considered to be the primary cause of hypertension, but growing evidence indicates that low potassium consumption has an equally important role to play,” Professor Stowasser said.

In this study, Professor Stowasser will investigate the ‘NCC’ sodium contransporter in kidney tubules, which when activated draws sodium out of urine and into the body.

When a person consumes a low-potassium diet, the renal-potassium switch turns ‘on’ the NCC, resulting in too much sodium being retained in the body causing increased blood pressure.

Professor Stowasser said a clinical trial would determine the effects of a high potassium diet, compared to a low potassium diet for people with hypertension.

Collaborators in the United States and Europe will conduct trials on animal models.

The research is supported with a $USD6 million Transatlantic Network of Excellence grant from the Fondation Leducq, over five years.

Media: Professor Michael Stowasser, +61 7 3176 2176, +61 412 190 038, Sam Benger, 7 3365 5118.