potassium prevents atherosclerosis

Doug Skrecky (oberon@vcn.bc.ca)
Fri, 8 May 1998 09:50:54 -0700 (PDT)

Journal of Hypertension 7(suppl 6): S244-S245 1989

"Atherosclerotic Cholesterol Ester Deposition is Markedly Reduced With a
High-Potassium Diet"


In a normal rat on a normal diet, no cholesterol esters are detected in
the aorta by gas chromatography. Stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive
rats (SHR) were fed for 3 months a basic diet containing 4% cholesterol,
14% coconut oil and 7% NaCl. One group of 13 rats ingested a normal (0.5%)
level of potassium in the diet. Another group of 10 rats ingested a high
(2.1%) potassium level. Mean intra-arterial blood pressures averaged 165
mmHg in the normal-potassium group and 161 mmHg in the high-potassium
group. Serum cholesterol levels averaged 229 mg/dl in the normal-potassium
group and 214 mg/dl in the high-potassium group. Total aortic cholesterol
esters per rat involving 16- and 18-carbon chain fatty acids averaged 187
microgram in normal-potassium versus 68 microgram in high-potassium rats.
These were the main esters; other esters were negligible. Thus, the
high-potassium diet reduced cholesterol ester deposits by 64% (p<0.0003),
even though blood pressures and cholesterol levels were quite similar in
the two groups. Both high cholesterol and high blood pressure injure
endothelial cells and increase the invasion of macrophages and vascular
smooth musccle cells into the intima; they also increase endothelial
permeability to proteins. With high plasma cholesterol levels, these
processes lead to atherosclerosis with choleseterol eester deposition. The
high-potassium diet, by protecting endothelial cells, can greatly decrease
this cholesterol ester deposition. This effect could be useful for
preventing heart attacks and sudden coronary death in human hypertension.

end abstract

Additional note:

A 0.5% diet works out to about 3 grams of potassium for a human
consuming 2500 calories of rat chow. This a little above the average
potassium intake by Americans. A 2.1% diet works out to roughly 12 grams,
which is typical of stone-age human diets.