The influence of oral potassium chloride on blood pressure in hypertensive men on a low-sodium diet

N Engl J Med. 1990 Mar 1;322(9):569-74. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199003013220901.


Clinical and epidemiologic studies suggest that the intake of potassium chloride lowers blood pressure. To investigate whether supplemental potassium chloride (96 mmol of microcrystalline potassium chloride a day) reduced the need for antihypertensive medication in hypertensive men on a restricted-sodium diet, we conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. A total of 287 men 45 to 68 years of age, 142 given potassium chloride and 145 given placebo, were followed for an average of 2.2 years after the withdrawal of their antihypertensive medication. Men in both groups received instructions on following a low-sodium diet. Overnight urinary sodium excretion fell from 63 mmol per eight hours at base line to an average of 45 mmol per eight hours during follow-up. Participants given supplemental potassium chloride had significantly higher (P less than 0.001) serum potassium levels and urinary potassium excretion (averaging 4.5 mmol per liter and 42.5 mmol per eight hours, respectively) during follow-up than participants given placebo (4.2 mmol per liter and 20.0 mmol per eight hours). Seventy-nine participants in each group required reinstitution of antihypertensive medication according to strict indications defined by the protocol. No significant differences in systolic or diastolic blood pressure were observed between the two groups. During follow-up, systolic and diastolic blood pressure averaged 130.6 and 82.5 mm Hg, respectively, for participants given supplemental potassium, and 132.5 and 83.1 mm Hg for participants given placebo. We conclude that supplemental potassium chloride does not reduce the need for antihypertensive medication in hypertensive men on a restricted-sodium diet.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Diet, Sodium-Restricted*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Evaluation
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / diet therapy
  • Hypertension / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Potassium / blood
  • Potassium / urine
  • Potassium Chloride / administration & dosage*
  • Potassium Chloride / pharmacology
  • Potassium Chloride / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Potassium Chloride
  • Potassium