Potassium Intake in India: Opportunity for Mitigating Risks of High-Sodium Diets

Am J Prev Med. 2020 Feb;58(2):302-312. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2019.09.017.


Introduction: Most Indians are vegetarian or eat very little meat, which could imply high potassium intake. Because a high-potassium diet could counterbalance the adverse health effects of high-sodium intake, this study aimed to describe potassium relative to sodium intake and investigate the relationship between blood pressure and potassium intake relative to sodium intake in rural and urban India.

Methods: Investigators collected 24-hour urines from 1,445 participants in a subset of 2 population-based surveys in North India in 2012-2013. Standardized questionnaires were used to collect information on demography, behaviors (tobacco, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and diet [food frequency and 24-hour recall]), and medical history. After evaluating expected versus measured creatinine excretion, the authors calculated median urine potassium excretion and sodium/potassium ratio, according to sex and urban or rural residence, and estimated least square means for the urine measures by participant demographics and comorbidities, after accounting for caloric intake. Two-year blood pressure follow-up data were available in the urban study, and ANCOVA regression was used to determine the association with urine measures. All the statistical analyses of the data were done in January 2019.

Results: Acceptable 24-hour urine collections were available in 1,397 participants (rural, n=730). Median urine potassium excretions were 1,492 (IQR=1,012-2,063) and 975 (615-1,497) mg/day; sodium/potassium ratios met the recommended target of <1 in 2.9% rural and 6.6% urban participants. Rural participants did not have higher potassium or lower (better) sodium/potassium ratios when diagnosed with hypertension or other cardiovascular conditions. Higher potassium excretion was associated with lower blood pressure during follow-up among the urban participants (mean systolic blood pressure, 129 vs 133 mm Hg in highest vs lowest potassium excretion tertiles; p=0.029).

Conclusions: Low potassium intake in India warrants dietary policies promoting intake of potassium-rich foods to improve heart health. This approach may be more acceptable than programs focused on sodium reduction alone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / diagnosis*
  • India
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Potassium / analysis*
  • Potassium / urine
  • Sodium, Dietary / analysis*
  • Sodium, Dietary / urine
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Sodium, Dietary
  • Potassium