Potassium is a positively charged electrolyte. Different concentrations of electrolytes on either side of a neuron, or nerve cell, make it possible for one nerve to transmit a signal to the second nerve. While potassium chloride and potassium gluconate are chemically different, they both dissociate easily so the potassium ion can be used by the body.
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Potassium Chloride Identified
Potassium chloride is a white, odorless powder with a salty taste. Like other salts, it contains an alkali metal and a halide. While chemists can synthesize it in the lab, most of the potassium chloride you see in your daily life occurs naturally in foods or is dissolved in tap water.
Potassium Gluconate Identified
Potassium gluconate is a slightly more complex molecule than potassium chloride. With a molecular weight of 234.35, it is roughly two times bigger than potassium chloride. Potassium gluconate is a loosely bound salt of potassium and gluconic acid. Gluconic acid is formed when glucose is oxidized. Because the bond between the potassium and the gluconate is so loose, the molecule dissolves easily in water.
Both potassium chloride and potassium gluconate are used primarily as dietary supplements. While potassium deficiencies are rare, they occur in conjunction with starvation, anorexia, prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, or with long-term use of diuretics in medically fragile people. Under these circumstances, supplementation is necessary to support normal functioning of the nervous system and heart.
Never take potassium supplements without consulting your doctor. Normally the body keeps potassium levels within a very narrow range so that the nervous system can function. While healthy kidneys remove excess potassium, unhealthy kidneys cannot perform this function. Potentially fatal heart attacks can occur if you take too much potassium and your kidneys cannot remove the excess.