Figuring out how potassium lowers blood pressure

International team researches bananas

High blood pressure kills an estimated 7.5 million people worldwide each year. But doctors have known since early in the 20th century that potassium lowers blood pressure. Now a team of six international doctors and researchers, including a team at Oregon Health & Science University, have five years and a $6 million grant to discover how and why it works.

Dr. David Ellison, a professor of medicine and physiology and pharmacology, elaborates: “What my colleagues and I have discovered is there's a switch in the kidney that seems to be the mechanism by which potassium, when you eat more of it, gets your blood pressure down. We've been looking at exactly how this switch mechanism works. And we’re trying to nail down what the proteins involved in the switch are.”

According to a article, Dr. Ellison claims diets high in salt are the leading cause of high blood pressure. But getting people to reduce their salt intake is harder than increasing the amount of potassium in their diets. “The beneficial effects of potassium are most striking for people or animals on a high-salt diet. So that if you're on a high salt diet then eating more potassium will pretty dramatically lower your blood pressure.”

Fruits and vegetables -from bananas to sweet potatoes and tomato paste- are just a few of the foods that are high in potassium.

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