More Potassium Linked to Fewer Strokes

September 17, 2014

Attention, older women: Add more potassium to your diet, reduce your risk of stroke.

That advice is suggested by recently published research that showed an association between higher intakes of potassium and lowered incidence of stroke among post-menopausal women. One of the researchers involved in the study stated in a press release, “Our findings give women another reason to eat their fruits and vegetables.”

Since potatoes are among the most potassium-rich foods, the U.S. Potato Board (USPB) is broadcasting the results as widely as possible. The new research findings are being cited in the next edition of the USPB’s publication “Potato Healthline” issued to health professionals and will also be included in the next revisions to the USPB’s widely consulted “Potato Nutrition Handbook.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) lists potatoes as the fourth most potassium-dense food behind only baked sweet potatoes, tomato paste and cooked beet greens when intake is calculated on standard consumption amounts. The flesh of one baked potato about 5½ ounces in weight contains 610 milligrams of potassium, according to a DGA chart. A Taiwanese source notes that a potato of that size eaten with the skin on delivers about 715 milligrams of potassium. By contrast, the DGA listing puts bananas, which are highly regarded as a potassium source, at only 422 milligrams for a medium-sized fruit The recommended daily potassium intake for adults, according to the DGA, is 4,700 milligrams per day.

The women studied in the recently published research fell far short of that recommendation by more than 2,000 milligrams daily. The researchers, most of whom are based at Albert Einstein Medical College in New York City, reviewed data from more than 90,000 women between 50 and 79 years of age who were tracked for outcomes over an average of 11 years. The research was published Sept. 4 in the medical journal “Stroke.”

The outcomes that were checked in the data analysis were for ischemic strokes (blood-vessel blockage), hemorrhagic strokes (blood-vessel rupture), both types of strokes combined, and all causes of mortality. To varying degrees in those categories the results showed benefits from higher potassium intake. The research focused on searching for an association of factors rather than determining causation, but previous laboratory studies have demonstrated that potassium strengthens interior walls of blood vessels and also improves blood flow.

The findings of the recent research have been widely distributed in print publications and on television news programs and across the Internet. Most of the coverage has cited potatoes as a rich source of potassium.

The Weekly Potato Report