13.4 Potassium

Potassium is the major intracellular cation. Good sources of potassium include beans, potatoes (with skin), milk products, orange juice, tomato juice, and bananas1,2. Potassium, like sodium and chloride, is well absorbed. Greater than 85% of consumed potassium is absorbed. Potassium is primarily excreted in urine (~90%)3.

Potassium is important for:

1. Fluid Balance

2. Nerve transmission and muscle contraction

Increased potassium intake results in decreased calcium excretion. This is the opposite effect of increased sodium intake, which increases calcium excretion1.

Potassium deficiency is rare but can be fatal. Symptoms include:

Irregular heartbeat (can be fatal)

Deficiency can occur in individuals that are on diuretics, drugs that increase urine production, and individuals with eating disorders1.

Toxicity is also extremely rare, only occurring if there is a problem with kidney function. Symptoms of toxicity are irregular heartbeat and even cardiac arrest1.

References & Links

1. Byrd-Bredbenner C, Moe G, Beshgetoor D, Berning J. (2009) Wardlaw’s perspectives in nutrition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

2. Whitney E, Rolfes SR. (2011) Understanding nutrition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

3. Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. (2008) Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.