‘More bananas and fewer crisps can help ward off strokes’, the Daily Mail reports, saying a study has found that people with high potassium intake have a 24% reduced risk of stroke. Researchers are also reported to say that lowering salt intake could increase benefits further.
Advice to switch from eating crisps to eating bananas is sound, but do we really need to boost our potassium intake?
The headlines stem from a well-conducted systematic review of global evidence on the effects of higher potassium concentration on cardiovascular health in healthy adults.
Good quality evidence suggests that boosting potassium intake to the recommended daily levels is associated with a decrease in blood pressure (by a few mmHg) compared to lower intakes. However, this effect was only found for people with high blood pressure.
Other evidence suggested that higher potassium intake could reduce stroke risk by 24%. However, it’s unwise to draw firm conclusions from these studies about how people’s health is affected by increased potassium intake.
A balanced diet featuring lots of fruit, vegetables and protein should give you all the potassium you need, without the need for supplements. In fact, too much potassium can be harmful, particularly for people with kidney disease or those already on certain blood pressure drugs.
Before you start scoffing bananas or popping potassium pills, it may be wise to talk about your blood pressure with your GP.