Why Your Mother Was Right: How Potassium Intake Reduces Blood Pressure

David H. Ellison, Andrew S. Terker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Low potassium intake, common in western diets, increases blood pressure and enhances salt-sensitivity. Most humans in "Westernized" countries also consume excess salt. In studies using mice, we found that a high-salt, low-potassium diet activates the thiazide-sensitive Na-Cl cotransporter in the kidney. This effect led to sodium retention and increased blood pressure, and was dependent on plasma potassium. We postulated that this effect was mediated by changes in intracellular chloride caused by changes in membrane voltage. We developed a model in cultured cells permitting us to confirm this hypothesis. We then confirmed, using urinary exosomes, that dietary changes in normal humans, affect the thiazide-sensitive Na-Cl cotransporter in the same way. These data show that dietary potassium deficiency increases blood pressure largely by stimulating salt reabsorption along the distal nephron. They suggest that global efforts should focus on increasing potassium intake, which will attenuate the effects of high-salt diets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-55
Number of pages10
JournalTransactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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