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  • Decreased potassium in cells may help explain why obesity increases risk of cancer

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Saturday, September 14, 2019 8:42 am Email this article
    Obesity is associated with an increased risk of numerous cancers. One of the reasons for this may be because obesity increases concentrations of sodium in cells, and decreases potassium. This according to a very interesting paper from 1996.



    Increasing sodium and decreasing potassium, increase cancer

    “Agents known or believed to be carcinogenic [cancer-causing] decrease the concentration of potassium and increase the concentration of sodium in the cells,” the author notes.

    Decreasing sodium and increasing potassium, decrease cancer

    “Anticarcinogenic agents have the opposite effect.”
    [They increase potassium and lower sodium in cells.]

    This relationship holds true in all situations studied

    This seems to be true in all cases.

    “In all cases where we have information on an agent’s carcinogenicity or anticarcinogenicity and on that agent’s effects on cellular potassium and sodium concentrations the above relationships have been found to be true,” the author states.



    This relationship holds true for dietary agents; more potassium equals less cancer

    “Dietary carcinogenic agents studied [that is, things in the diet that increase the risk of cancer] include sodium, cadmium, fat, cholesterol, calories, and alcohol; dietary anticarcinogenic agents [that is, things in the diet that decrease the risk of cancer]include potassium, vitamins A, C, and D, selenium, and fiber.”


    This relationship holds true for non-dietary agents

    Chemicals that are not part of the diet that are known to cause cancer have the same effect: they increase sodium and decrease potassium in the cell according to the author.

    The opposite is also true.

    Chemicals that decrease the risk of cancer increase potassium and decrease sodium in the cell.


    This relationship holds true for aging; sodium increases, potassium decreases, and cancer increases

    This is also true of aging.

    Cancer becomes more common as we age, and with age there is a decrease in potassium and an increase in sodium in cells.

    “In aging, potassium leaves the cells, sodium enters them, and the rates of cancer increase,” the author notes.


    This relationship holds true for diseases

    Diseases and conditions that increase potassium levels are associated with lower cancer rates, and those those that decrease potassium, increase cancer rates.

    “Patients with hyperkalemic diseases [that is, diseases associated with elevated potassium levels, such as] (Parkinson, Addison) have reduced cancer rates, and patients with hypokalemic diseases [that is, diseases associated decreased potassium levels, such as] (alcoholism, obesity, stress) have increased cancer rates.”

    Comments: Potassium under-utilized in medicine

    I think that potassium is under-utilized in medicine for the control of blood pressure, and in light of this paper, perhaps for general health.

    Comments: My impression is that doctors are afraid of potassium supplements

    My impression is that many physicians are afraid of potassium.

    Here is why I say this.

    Comments: I was told, “It might kill you.”

    In circa 2000, I was talking to a physician at a dinner party and I told him that I take 2 grams (2,000 mg) of potassium in the form of potassium bicarbonate per day, and he said, “I’d be careful with that. It might kill you.”

    Comments: Potassium chloride used for lethel injections

    (When people are killed by lethal injection, they are injected with potassium chloride to interrupt the electrical signaling essential to heart function, which stops the heart.)

    Comments: Are doctors afraid of potassium supplements?

    Several doctors have told me that they give their weight loss patients 400-500 mg of potassium.

    I wonder, “Why so little?” Studies that have given potassium supplements to lower blood pressure have used 2,000 to 5,000 mg per day.

    I assume it is for the same reason that the doctor told me—I assume they are worried that they might kill their patients.

    Comments: Worldwide, people consume 2,000 to 8,000 mg of potassium per day

    “Potassium intake throughout the world ranges from 50 to 200 mmol per day [2,000 to 8,000 mg of potassium per day],” according to “The Present Knowledge in Nutrition” (7th Edition, 1996, p. 275, col. 1).

    Comments: Americans consume 2,500 mg per day; less than they should

    The average American gets only about 2500 mg per day, and some Blacks may only consume 1,000 mg per day.

    “[M]any (if not most) Americans ingest less potassium than they should.”
    —The Present Knowledge in Nutrition, 7th Edition, 1996, p. 275, 1st column, 2nd paragraph

    “Potassium supplementation may play an especially important role in lowering blood pressure incertain groups, such as elderly people and African Americans.”
    —The Present Knowledge in Nutrition, 7th Edition, 1996, p. 275, 2nd column, 3rd paragraph

    So, to me, it seems that it is quite safe to take a supplement containing 1,000-2,000 mg of potassium per day.



    Comments: High dietary potassium associated with 33-34 percent lower risk of heart disease and 50-59 percent lower risk of death

    Potassium also lowers the risk of coronary heart disease and death overall.

    A study of 11,629 people who were followed for 7.5 years found that those consuming the most potassium reduced their risk of coronary heart disease by 33 to 34 and cut their risk of death by 55 to 59 percent compared to those consuming the least (Tunstall-Pedoe et al, 1997).



    Comments: MEN consuming most potassium 55% less likely to die

    Men consuming the most potassium (5400 mg per day) were:

    —Tunstall-Pedoe, 1997, Table 6


    Comments: WOMEN consuming most potassium 59% less likely to die

    Women consuming the most potassium (4500 mg per day) were:

    —Tunstall-Pedoe, 1997, Table 6


    Comments: Potassium is unexpectedly protective against the risk of death

    The authors concluded that…


    ”[We found] an unexpectedly powerful protective relation of dietary potassium to all cause mortality,”

    (Tunstall-Pedoe, 1997, p. 722).


    Comments: 500 mg of potassium reduces the risk of stroke by 40% in normal people and 60% in those taking diuretics

    Other studies have found that an extra 500 mg of potassium per day—the amount in a banana or an 8 ounce glass of orange juice—reduced the risk of stroke by 40 percent in normal people and 60 percent in people taking diuretics.



    Comments: Potassium and/or magnesium reduces arrhythmias 52-61%, reduces cardiac events 41-46%, and death 50-55%

    Another study found that giving magnesium or potassium to patients after a heart attack reduced the risk of a type of arrhythmia called a ventricular ectopic by 52 to 61 percent, reduced cardiac events which included heart attacks, etc. by 41 to 46 percent, and reduced the risk of dying from all causes by 50 to 55 percent (Singh, et al, 1996).

    Magnesium helps cells absorb potassium.



    Comments: What is not to like about potassium?

    The research shows that potassium

    What’s not to like about potassium?

    I think most people would benefit from consuming more potassium-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables and/or taking a potassium supplement.


    Jansson B. Potassium, sodium, and cancer: a review. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol. 1996, 15(2-4):65-73.


    B. Jansson
    Department of Biomathematics
    University of Texas
    M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
    Houston, TX 77030, USA


    Tunstall-Pedoe H, Woodward M, Tavendale R, A’brook R, Mccluskey M. Comparison of the prediction by 27 different factors of coronary heart disease and death in men and women of the scottish heart health study: cohort study. BMJ. 1997 Sep 20, 315(7110):722-29.


    Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit
    Ninewells Hospital and Medical School
    University of Dundee, United Kingdom
    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Articles on the same subject can be found here:


    On Jan 30, 2006 at 11:22 pm Gina wrote:

    . . . . .

    Cocoa powder is full of potassium, just use caution in choosing one without hydrogenates, like baking cocoa (learn to make your own healthful beverage) Enjoy!!!

    On Jan 31, 2006 at 3:39 am Larry Hobbs wrote:

    . . . . .


    Thank you for the information.

    It appears that two tablespoons of cocoa powder contains about 150 mg of potassium according to one website.

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