Potassium is a mineral the body needs in order to carry out multiple vital functions.
Both high and low levels of this nutrient can cause serious health problems, so if you take supplements, you may wonder if your multivitamin contains too much — or not enough — potassium.
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What Is Potassium?
An essential mineral and an electrolyte, potassium is necessary for maintaining fluid balance and normal blood pressure as well as helping your muscles contract, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The body also requires potassium to build proteins, break down and use carbohydrates and control the electrical activity of the heart, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). Plus, getting enough potassium can also help reduce the risk of kidney stones and bone loss, according to the University of Michigan.
Generally speaking, potassium helps to move nutrients into your cells, Angie Kuhn, RDN, director of research and nutrition at Persona Nutrition, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
"For example, when your body cramps up and begins to hurt, it's calling out for electrolytes which could be potassium," she says. "Potassium offers the appropriate nutrients to your body it needs to function properly."
According to the NIH, age and sex determine the average recommended daily amount of potassium the body requires. Here's that breakdown:
- People assigned female at birth (19 and over): 2,600 milligrams
- People assigned male at birth (19 and over): 3,400 milligrams
- Pregnant people: 2,900 milligrams
- Breastfeeding people: 2,800 milligrams
Potassium in Multivitamins
The FDA requires all supplements to cap their potassium to no more than 99 milligrams per serving — which comes out to less than 5 percent of the daily recommended amount, per the NIH. That's because high levels of potassium can cause dangerous side effects.
Not all multivitamins contain potassium. And if yours does, there's no need to worry about a multivitamin containing a toxic level of potassium.
According to the NIH, potassium in supplements may go by different names, including:
- potassium chloride
- potassium citrate
- potassium phosphate
- potassium aspartate
- potassium bicarbonate
- potassium gluconate
Because you won't get much potassium from a supplement, you'll have to get it from foods — these include red meat, poultry, fish, beans, dairy products, fruits (such as apricots, prunes and citrus fruits) and vegetables (such as potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli and spinach).
Multivitamins Without Potassium Added
Multivitamins With Potassium
Side Effects of Low and High Potassium Levels
Many Americans do not get the recommended daily amounts of potassium, which could lead to health complications.
"Lack of potassium may cause muscle weakness, irregular heartbeat, mood changes, nausea and/or vomiting," Kuhn says.
A condition referred to as hypokalemia, people who are at a greater risk of having low levels of potassium include those who take laxatives or take diuretics to treat high blood pressure or heart failure, as well as those who have been diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease, a kidney disorder or an adrenal gland disorder, according to the NLM.
But too much potassium in the bloodstream, known as hyperkalemia, can cause abnormal and dangerous heart rhythms. Certain heart medications — such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin 2 receptor blockers (ARBs) can cause this condition, along with living with type 1 diabetes, congestive heart failure, liver disease or adrenal insufficiency.
The Bottom Line
Potassium is a crucial nutrient for proper health. Many supplements, including multivitamins, contain only a minimal amount of this electrolyte, so add potassium-rich foods to your plate each day to avoid low levels.