Potassium chloride is a colorless crystalline compound of potassium and chlorine that is widely prescribed to prevent or treat potassium deficiency. In the human body, potassium is an electrolyte that is essential to the proper functioning of all cells, tissues and organs, according to MedlinePlus. In addition to its role in the treatment of potassium deficiency, potassium chloride may also be helpful in preventing or treating other ailments.
How the Body Uses Potassium
As an electrolyte, potassium enables cells to carry electrical impulses within the cells themselves and outside the cells to other parts of the body as well. In this way, nerve impulses and muscle contractions can travel to the part of the body where and when they’re needed. Thus, potassium is critical to heart function, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, as well to skeletal and smooth muscle contraction. Although potassium is widely available from dietary sources, a number of health conditions can cause the body to eliminate potassium at abnormally high rates. Such conditions include diarrhea, vomiting, malabsorption, malnutrition and excessive sweating. As with some other nutrients, it’s possible to have too much potassium in the body, a condition known as hyperkalemia. Consult with your doctor before beginning any regimen of potassium supplementation.
Helps Reduce Blood Pressure
Supplementation with potassium chloride appears to have a blood-pressure-lowering effect, according to Lawrence J. Appel, M.D., of the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research at Johns Hopkins University. In a review published in a 1999 issue of “Clinical Cardiology,” Dr. Appel reported that supplementation with a moderate daily dose of potassium chloride reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings in hypertensive patients by 4.4 and 2.5 millimeters of mercury, respectively. The reduction was even more pronounced in patients whose diets were abnormally high in salt consumption.
Helps Prevent Stroke
A team of researchers at Harvard Medical School and its Boston teaching affiliate, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, undertook a study to see what, if any, connections existed between potassium intake and the risk of stroke. Their large-scale study tracked 43,738 men between the ages of 40 and 75 who had no diagnostic history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Researchers discovered that men who maintained a diet rich in potassium experienced a lower incidence of stroke than those whose potassium intake was lower or even deficient. Supplementation with potassium chloride was also found to be helpful in preventing stroke, particularly among patients taking diuretics, which tend to flush potassium and other minerals from the body. Researchers published their findings in a 1998 issue of “Circulation,” a journal of the American Heart Association.
Lowers Kidney Stone Risks
In “Guide to Nutritional Supplements,” author Benjamin Caballero, M.Sc., Ph.D., a professor at Johns Hopkins University, cites a study showing that increased potassium intake sharply reduced the risk of kidney stones in a study group of 91,731 women. In the study, women who took an average daily dose of 4.7 grams of potassium had an incidence of kidney stone formation that was 35 percent lower than women whose daily intake of potassium was less than 2 grams. Dr. Caballero also reported that increased potassium intake appears to be linked to greater bone mineral density.
- MedlinePlus: Potassium in Diet
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Potassium
- Clinical Cardiology: Nonpharmacologic Therapies That Reduce Blood Pressure: A Fresh Perspective
- Circulation: Intake of Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium and Fiber and Risk of Stroke Among U.S. Men
- Guide to Nutritional Supplements; Benjamin Caballero, M.Sc., Ph.D.
- Drugs.com: Potassium Chloride