Though a potassium deficiency is not common, some conditions can lead your potassium levels to drop, and you may experience muscle spasms, high blood pressure, and nervous system dysfunction. We all need potassium in our bodies to regulate our metabolism, and the mineral also plays a part in digestion. It’s best to check with your doctor before starting potassium supplements, as too much can be dangerously toxic to the body.
If it’s been recommended for you to supplement with this mineral, read our quick guide for all you need to know when purchasing a potassium supplement. We’ve included information about our top brands, including our favorite potassium supplement by Nature Made that contains an elemental form of the mineral that’s easy for the body to absorb.
Signs and causes of potassium deficiency
Most people get enough potassium from their food. Bananas, avocados, beans, and sweet potatoes are a just a few examples of potassium-rich foods. However, some people, such as high-endurance athletes, are at risk for potassium deficiency. Here are some of the signs of a mild deficiency:
Muscle cramps and spasms Fatigue and weakness High blood pressure Constipation Insomnia Trouble concentrating Heart palpitations (in more severe cases) Of course, these are common signs of other ailments, so never self-diagnose without first checking with a qualified healthcare practitioner. There are many conditions that could cause a potassium deficiency, including kidney malfunction, dehydration, antibiotic use, hyperthyroidism, alcoholism, diabetes, and excessive laxative use.
Considerations when choosing potassium supplements
There are many forms of potassium available in supplements: potassium gluconate, aspartate, chelate, chloride, phosphate, bicarbonate, citrate, and orotate. Potassium chloride is the most common type used to treat deficiency.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for potassium is 4,700 mg. Most supplements come in 90 mg to 99 mg doses of potassium. Higher-dose pills are available, but they usually contain smaller “active” amounts. For your frame of reference, a banana contains 487 mg of potassium.
Potassium supplements come in capsule and tablet form. Liquids and powders are also available, though less commonly so. In severe cases, potassium can be injected by a doctor. For capsules and pills, there are plenty of vegetarian options as well as formulas free from dairy, gluten, wheat, GMOs, and other common allergens.
Some supplements can be expensive. Fortunately, potassium supplements tends to run on the inexpensive side. They are priced from .02 to .25 per pill. Mid-range potassium supplements that are priced from .10 to .15 per pill may contain different types of potassium as well as higher dosages per pill. Premium potassium supplements, costing up to .25 per pill, are typically marketed as part of an electrolyte package targeting athletes.
Q. Should I take a potassium supplement with food?
White Plains, New York August 21, 2013 — How much potassium would you expect from a supplement called “Potassium Gluconate 595 mg”? The correct answer is just 99 mg, as ConsumerLab.com explains in its new Potassium Supplements Review, published online today. While potassium labels may be confusing to consumers, the good news is that ConsumerLab.com found the quality of supplements to be high across the products it tested in the new review. ConsumerLab.com also found that you could spend as little as one cent to get a 99 mg dose of high-quality potassium, rather than spending many times that amount.
However, it found brands differed on how labels portrayed the amount of potassium in the products. Potassium is chemically unstable and, therefore, is always bound to compounds which stabilize it. Potassium makes up far less than half of the weight of most of these potassium compounds, accounting for only 16.7% of the weight of potassium gluconate, 38.3% of potassium citrate and 52% of potassium chloride. Consequently, a product named “Potassium Gluconate 595 mg” will actually contain only about 99 mg of active “elemental” potassium. This important fact may be missed by many consumers when only disclosed in the “Supplement Facts” panel on the back of the bottle.
“We are glad that the findings for this group of potassium products were positive, but consumers should be aware that this is not always the case. In addition, they must carefully read the “Supplement Facts” panel on labels to be sure they are choosing a product with the right dose of potassium,” said Tod Cooperman, M.D., ConsumerLab.com’s president.
ConsumerLab.com’s Potassium Supplements Review is available at https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/Potassium_Supplements/Potassium/. It includes quality ratings, price comparisons, and ingredient comparisons for seven products selected, tested, and rated by ConsumerLab.com as well as for eight that passed ConsumerLab.com’s Quality Certification Program. Also listed are two products similar to one that passed testing. Potassium supplement products included in the report are 21st Century Potassium Gluconate 595 mg, CVS/pharmacy Potassium Gluconate 595 mg, Douglas Laboratories Potassium 99 mg Chelated, Finest Nutrition Potassium Gluconate, KAL Potassium 99 Chloride, Natural Factors Potassium Citrate 99 mg, Nature Made Potassium Gluconate, Natures Bounty Potassium Gluconate 595 mg, NOW Potassium Chloride Powder, Puritans Pride Potassium, Simply Right Potassium Gluconate 595 mg, Solgar Potassium, Sundown Naturals Potassium Gluconate 595 mg, Thorne Research Potassium-Magnesium Citrate, Twinlab Potassium Caps, The Vitamin Shoppe Potassium Citrate, and Vitamin World Potassium 99 mg.
The report also provides information about the forms of potassium, dosage for specific uses, concerns and cautions with potassium supplement use, and additional clinical information.
ConsumerLab.com is a leading provider of consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health and nutrition. Membership to ConsumerLab.com is available online, providing immediate access to independent reviews of more than 1,000 products. The company is privately held and based in Westchester, New York. It has no ownership from, or interest in, companies that manufacture, distribute, or sell consumer products. ConsumerLab.com is affiliated with PharmacyChecker.com, which helps consumers evaluate online pharmacies and compare drug prices, and MedicareDrugPlans.com, which reviews and rates Medicare Part D plans.
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Potassium chloride and potassium citrate have similar names, so they should treat the same conditions, right? Not quite. While they are both supplements that contain potassium, the two actually have different uses, side effects and dosages, and cannot be substituted for each other.
- First, what is potassium chloride?
- What are side effects of potassium chloride?
- What are the forms and dosages of potassium chloride?
- How should I take potassium chloride?
- How much does potassium chloride cost?
- Now, what is potassium citrate?
- What are side effects of potassium citrate?
- What are the forms and dosages of potassium citrate?
- How should I take potassium citrate?
- How much does potassium citrate cost?
- Should I take a potassium supplement?
First, what is potassium chloride?
Potassium chloride is used to treat hypokalemia, or low potassium levels, caused by diet, medications, diarrhea, sweating or some diseases. Hypokalemia can cause symptoms like muscle weakness, abnormal heart rhythms, constipation, fatigue and even paralysis.
Potassium chloride is sold as a generic drug but is also marketed under the following brand names: Klor-Con M, K-Tab, Klor Con and Micro K. Keep in mind that these are more expensive than generic potassium chloride because they are brand drugs.
What are side effects of potassium chloride?
Common side effects of potassium chloride include nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, gas, diarrhea, and tingling in the hands and feet. Potassium chloride can also cause hyperkalemia (high potassium levels in the blood), and is only recommended in pregnant women under strict physician supervision as hyperkalemia can pose a risk to the fetus.
What are the forms and dosages of potassium chloride?
Potassium chloride comes in both immediate-release and extended-release forms. Immediate-release potassium chloride is available in a packet (20 meq), bottle of oral solution (10%, 20%), and effervescent tablets (25 meq), while potassium chloride ER (extended release) is available in tablets (8 meq, 10 meq, 20 meq) and capsules (10 meq, 8 meq).
How should I take potassium chloride?
Potassium chloride should be taken with a full glass of juice or water, as this helps prevent you from getting an upset stomach.
How much does potassium chloride cost?
Potassium chloride is inexpensive. With a GoodRx discount, 30 effervescent tablets cost only $20, and both the 450 ml bottle of 10% oral solution and the 20 meq packets can be purchased for as little as $60 for a 30-day supply.
Now, what is potassium citrate?
Potassium citrate is indicated for the treatment of kidney stones, which are crystal-like structures that form in the kidneys. Kidney stones are a result of excess amounts of uric acid (a natural byproduct of the body’s metabolism) or calcium in the blood. They can be caused by diet, certain diseases, genetics or medications.
Potassium citrate is equivalent to the brand-name drug, Urocit-K.
What are side effects of potassium citrate?
Side effects of potassium citrate include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, headache and dizziness. Just like potassium chloride, potassium citrate should be taken by women who are pregnant only when it’s medically necessary and under a doctor’s supervision.
What are the forms and dosages of potassium citrate?
Potassium citrate is only available as a tablet in strengths of 5 meq, 10 meq, and 15 meq.
How should I take potassium citrate?
In order to avoid an upset stomach or nausea, take potassium citrate with a meal or within 30 minutes of a meal.
How much does potassium citrate cost?
LIke potassium chloride, potassium citrate is also affordable. A 30-day supply of all strengths can cost as little as $45 with a GoodRx discount.
Should I take a potassium supplement?
Updated: June 24, 2019Published: June, 2016
A cup of cantaloupe contains about 400 mg of potassium.
Image: Arisara_Tongdonnoi / Thinkstock
Q. I have high blood pressure, and a friend recommended that I take a potassium supplement. Is that a good idea, and if so, how much should I take?
A. This is a great question that comes up all the time—and with good reason, because potassium can be tricky. The short answer is no, you should not take potassium supplements unless your doctor prescribes them. Let me outline why below.
To start with, you’re much better off getting potassium from foods instead of potassium supplements. Many fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium, including spinach, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, bananas, and avocado. Potassium-rich diets help control blood pressure and have been linked to a lower risk of stroke. But such diets also tend to be lower in sodium and contain other healthful nutrients, which may contribute to the observed blood pressure benefit.
Here’s where it gets a little confusing. Many blood pressure medications—especially the commonly prescribed class known as diuretics—can affect your potassium level. But while some diuretics tend to lower potassium levels, others have the opposite effect. And certain ACE inhibitors, such as lisinopril (Prinvil, Zestril) or ramipril (Altace), may also raise potassium levels. So can common painkillers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).
Keeping your blood potassium level in the correct range is important, because this mineral also plays a key role in the function of nerves and muscles, including heart muscle. Your kidneys help regulate potassium levels in your blood. But age, diabetes, heart failure, and certain other conditions may impair kidney function. As a result, potassium levels can rise to high levels, leading to dangerous heart rhythm problems and even cardiac arrest.
Because of this potential danger, the FDA limits over-the-counter potassium supplements (including multivitamin-mineral pills) to less than 100 milligrams (mg). That’s just 2% of the 4,700 mg recommended dietary intake for potassium. You’d have to take lots of potassium supplements to get close to that amount—another reason to get the nutrient from your diet.
However, grocery stores carry salt substitutes that may contain much higher amounts of potassium. People trying to curb their sodium intake may try these products. A mere one-quarter teaspoon of one brand contains about 800 mg of potassium. If you take a potassium-sparing diuretic, such as spironolactone, you should avoid salt substitutes and limit high-potassium foods.
However, if you take a diuretic that depletes potassium levels, such as hydrochlorothiazide or furosemide, your doctor may prescribe extended-release potassium tablets, which contain 600 to 750 mg of the mineral. And if you take any diuretic or ACE inhibitor, ask your doctor whether you need periodic testing of your potassium and kidney function, to be on the safe side.
— Deepak Bhatt, MD, MPH
Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter
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