What are the risks of taking potassium

Potassium products for nerves and muscles?

What's behind the potassium advertisement?

Potassium is now contained in many dietary supplements. There are products for athletes, products for heart health, and products that promise normal muscle and nerve function.

In fact, the following three health-related statements are approved by the European Commission:

  • Potassium contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system
  • Potassium contributes to normal muscle function
  • Potassium helps maintain normal blood pressure

The amount of potassium that is necessary for this can, however, be supplied through a balanced diet. Even athletes can cover the loss caused by sweating by eating fruits and vegetables. "More" is often not an advantage.

What should I look out for when using potassium products?

Too high a potassium intake, i.e. an overdose, can have very negative consequences. This includes damage such as bowel obstruction, cardiac arrhythmias and muscle paralysis. According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) should thereforeno more than 500 mg of potassium be included in a daily dose of dietary supplements.

High-dose potassium (mono) preparations should only be used after consulting a doctor.

If you are taking medication (regardless of whether or not you require a prescription), please talk to your doctor before using a dietary supplement containing potassium, as serious interactions are possible. You can find out exactly what these are here.

These mineral compounds are approved for potassium in food supplements in Germany and other EU countries in accordance with EU Directive 2002/46 / EC, Annex II (version dated July 26, 2017):

Potassium bicarbonate
Potassium carbonate
Potassium chloride
Potassium citrate
Potassium gluconate
Potassium glycerophosphate
Potassium lactate
Potassium hydroxide
Potassium L-pidolate
Potassium malate
Potassium salts of orthophosphoric acid

In addition, various potassium salts are used in salt substitute products.

What does the body need potassium for?

Potassium is a mineral that is essential for human life and, together with chloride, is required in every cell. The quantity element occurs mainly in muscle cells, but also in liver and bone cells as well as in the erythrocytes (red blood cells). The absorption of potassium from food takes place predominantly in the small intestine.

Potassium is of crucial importance in the transmission of nerve and muscle stimuli. It is jointly responsible for the functioning of the heart and muscles. Together with sodium and chloride, it is an important part of the electrolyte balance and plays a role in regulating the acid-base balance. As a secondary component of enzymes, it also plays a role in the formation of proteins and the carbohydrate reserve "glycogen". It thus contributes to the growth of the cells.

The connection between potassium intake and high blood pressure has been proven. Thus, higher intake quantities of potassium can contribute to lowering high blood pressure in high blood pressure patients and thus also reducing the risk of stroke.

A potassium deficiency, which manifests itself among other things in cardiac arrhythmias and muscle weakness, occurs most frequently when the body loses a lot of water. This is the case, for example, with severe, prolonged vomiting and / or diarrhea as well as with long-term use of laxatives or diuretics. Risk groups therefore also include seniors who do not eat enough food to meet their potassium requirements and at the same time may still be taking drugs that contribute to potassium losses. A potassium deficiency can also be encountered when the adrenal glands are overactive.

The German Nutrition Society for adults gives 4,000 mg daily as an estimate for adequate intake.

Can I cover my daily requirement with food?

Potassium can be found in almost all foods, both animal (meat) and plant-based foods. The potassium content in unprocessed foods is always higher than in processed foods. In the case of the latter, water-soluble potassium compounds are often lost in the course of the processing process, so that potassium losses of 20-50% are recorded.

Fruits and vegetables that are particularly rich in potassium include tomatoes, bananas, carrots and apricots. The more concentrated, e.g. dried, the fruit or vegetables, the richer the food is in potassium. Potassium is also found in some types of nuts such as peanuts, almonds and cashew nuts. Certain flours such as rye and spelled flour also contain the mineral. Last but not least, cocoa contains very high amounts of potassium, which is why the consumption of dark chocolate also contributes to potassium absorption. An inadequate potassium supply is therefore very unlikely with a varied diet.

Olive oil increases the absorption of potassium. It is therefore worthwhile to combine potassium-rich foods such as tomatoes or potatoes with the aromatic classic every now and then in the Mediterranean way.
Keep using the cooking water from vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, and Brussels sprouts. Warning: not with green beans and potatoes!


Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (2004): Use of minerals in food. Toxicological and nutritional aspects. Part II, accessed on: January 27, 2021

German Nutrition Society (Ed.) (2016): 13th DGE Nutrition Report, Köllen Druck + Verlag GmbH: Bonn

German Nutrition Society (2016): Selected questions and answers about potassium, accessed on: January 27, 2021

German Nutrition Society, Austrian Nutrition Society, Swiss Nutrition Society (ed.) (2016): Kalium. In: Reference values ​​for nutrient intake, 2nd edition, 6th updated edition 2020, Köllen Druck + Verlag GmbH: Bonn

Stahl-Pehe, A./Heseker, H. (2014): Kalium. Physiology, functions, occurrence, reference value and supply in Germany, Ernahrung Umschau (12), M660-65

Directive 2002/46 / EC of June 10, 2002 on the approximation of the laws of the member states relating to food supplements (version 07/26/2017)

BfR (2021): Updated maximum quantity proposals for vitamins and minerals in food supplements and fortified foods
Opinion No. 009/2021 of March 15, 2021

BfR (2021): Maximum amount proposals for potassium in food including food supplements


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