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Potassium supplementation for the management of primary hypertension in adults

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Heather Dickinson, Donald Nicolson, Dr Fiona CampbellORCiD, Fiona Beyer, Professor James Mason


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Background Epidemiological evidence on the effects of potassium on blood pressure is inconsistent. Objectives To evaluate the effects of potassium supplementation on health outcomes and blood pressure in people with elevated blood pressure. Search strategy We searched the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Science Citation Index, ISI Proceedings,, Current Controlled Trials, CAB abstracts, and reference lists of systematic reviews, meta-analyses and randomised controlled trials (RCTs) included in the review. Selection criteria Inclusion criteria were: 1) RCTs of a parallel or crossover design comparing oral potassium supplements with placebo, no treatment, or usual care; 2) treatment and follow-up >= 8 weeks; 3) participants over 18 years, with raised systolic blood pressure (SBP) >= 140 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) >=85 mmHg); 4) SBP and DBP reported at end of follow-up. We excluded trials where: participants were pregnant; received antihypertensive medication which changed during the study; or potassium supplementation was combined with other interventions. Data collection and analysis Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed trial quality. Disagreements were resolved by discussion or a third reviewer. Random effects meta-analyses and sensitivity analyses were conducted. Main results Six RCT's (n = 483), with eight to 16 weeks follow-up, met our inclusion criteria. Meta-analysis of five trials (n = 425) with adequate data indicated that potassium supplementation compared to control resulted in a large but statistically non-significant reductions in SBP ( mean difference: - 11.2, 95% CI: - 25.2 to 2.7) and DBP (mean difference: - 5.0, 95% CI: - 12.5 to 2.4). The substantial heterogeneity between trials was not explained by potassium dose, quality of trials or baseline blood pressure. Excluding one trial in an African population with very high baseline blood pressure resulted in smaller overall reductions in blood pressure (SBP mean difference: -3.9, 95% CI: -8.6 to 0.8; DBP mean difference: - 1.5, 95% CI: - 6.2 to 3.1). Further sensitivity analysis restricted to two high quality trials (n = 138) also found non-significant reductions in blood pressure (SBP mean difference: - 7.1, 95% CI: - 19.9 to 5.7; DBP mean difference: - 5.5, 95% CI: - 14.5 to 3.5). Authors' conclusions This systematic review found no statistically significant effect of potassium supplementation on blood pressure. Because of the small number of participants in the two high quality trials, the short duration of follow-up, and the unexplained heterogeneity between trials, the evidence about the effect of potassium supplementation on blood pressure is not conclusive. Further high quality RCTs of longer duration are required to clarify whether potassium supplementation can reduce blood pressure and improve health outcomes.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Dickinson HO, Nicolson DJ, Campbell F, Beyer FR, Mason J

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

Year: 2006

Issue: 3

Pages: CD004641

ISSN (print):

ISSN (electronic): 1469-493X


DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004641.pub2