Evidence that potassium deficiency induces growth retardation through reduced circulating levels of growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor I

Metabolism. 1991 Aug;40(8):769-75. doi: 10.1016/0026-0495(91)90001-d.


Growth retardation and impaired protein synthesis are major characteristics of potassium (K)-deficiency in animals and man. We have evaluated the effect of K-deficiency on growth, serum growth hormone (s-GH), insulin-like growth factor I (s-IGF-I), and insulin (s-insulin) in young rats. After 10 days on K-deficient fodder, 4 1/2-week-old rats showed a 54% reduction in serum potassium (s-K) and a weight gain that was reduced by 97%, compared with pair-fed controls. In addition, tail length, tibia length, and muscle weight of soleus in K-depleted animals were all significantly reduced compared with pair-fed controls. The growth retardation was accompanied by a 46% reduction in s-IGF-I, while s-insulin showed no decrease. K-repletion in animals depleted for 7 days showed complete normalization of s-K within 24 hours, in addition to a significant increase in both s-IGF-I and weight. In 4-week-old rats maintained on K-deficient fodder with variable K-content (1 to 260 mmol/kg) for 1 week, a strong correlation between the K-content of fodder and s-IGF-I could be established (r = .88, P less than .001), as well as between s-IGF-I and weight gain (r = .90, P less than .001). Furthermore, a stepwise reduction in basal s-GH was seen with the graded reduction of dietary K-content.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / blood
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Diet
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Growth Disorders / etiology*
  • Growth Hormone / blood*
  • Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone / pharmacology
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Potassium / administration & dosage
  • Potassium / pharmacology
  • Potassium Deficiency / blood
  • Potassium Deficiency / complications*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Insulin
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Growth Hormone
  • Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone
  • Potassium