Potassium and glucose measures in older adults: the Cardiovascular Health Study

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2015 Feb;70(2):255-61. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glu071. Epub 2014 Jun 3.


Background: We sought to determine the impacts of serum and dietary potassium measures on glucose metabolism and diabetes risk in older adults.

Methods: Among participants of the Cardiovascular Health Study, a community-based cohort of older American adults, we examined a) cross-sectional associations between potassium and measures of insulin sensitivity and secretion estimated from oral glucose tolerance tests and b) longitudinal associations of serum and dietary potassium with diabetes risk.

Results: Among 4,754 participants aged ≥65 years at baseline, there were 445 cases of incident diabetes during a median follow-up of 12 years. In multivariate models, baseline serum and dietary potassium were both associated with lower insulin sensitivity and greater insulin secretion. Compared with those with a serum potassium ≥4.5 mEq/L, participants with a serum potassium <4.0mEq/L had an adjusted mean difference in Matsuda insulin sensitivity index of -0.18 (-0.39, 0.02). Compared with those in the highest quartile, participants in the lowest quartile of dietary potassium intake had a corresponding adjusted mean difference in Matsuda insulin sensitivity index of -0.61 (-0.94, -0.29). In multivariate models, neither serum nor dietary potassium intake was associated with long-term diabetes risk.

Conclusions: Although we did not identify serum and dietary potassium as risk factors for incident diabetes in older adults, results from cross-sectional analyses suggest that both may be associated with increased insulin resistance. This relationship with insulin resistance needs to be confirmed, and its importance on diabetes risk, cardiovascular risk, and conditions specific to older adults should be determined as well.

Keywords: Glucose metabolism; Older adults.; Potassium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose / analysis*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Potassium / blood*
  • Potassium, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Potassium, Dietary
  • Potassium