Potassium is an essential nutrient. It is the most abundant cation in intracellular fluid where it plays a key role in maintaining cell function. The gradient of potassium across the cell membrane determines cellular membrane potential, which is maintained in large part by the ubiquitous ion channel the sodium-potassium (Na+-K+) ATPase pump. Approximately 90% of potassium consumed (60–100 mEq) is lost in the urine, with the other 10% excreted in the stool, and a very small amount lost in sweat. Little is known about the bioavailability of potassium, especially from dietary sources. Less is understood on how bioavailability may affect health outcomes. Hypertension (HTN) is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and a major financial burden ($50.6 billion) to the US public health system, and has a significant impact on all-cause morbidity and mortality worldwide. The relationship between increased potassium supplementation and a decrease in HTN is relatively well understood, but the effect of increased potassium intake from dietary sources on blood pressure overall is less clear. In addition, treatment options for hypertensive individuals (e.g., thiazide diuretics) may further compound chronic disease risk via impairments in potassium utilization and glucose control. Understanding potassium bioavailability from various sources may help to reveal how specific compounds and tissues influence potassium movement, and further the understanding of its role in health.
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