Open Access Research

Lower potassium intake is associated with increased wave reflection in young healthy adults

Shannon Lennon-Edwards12*, Brittany R Allman2, Taylor A Schellhardt1, Courtney R Ferreira1, William B Farquhar2 and David G Edwards2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition, University of Delaware, 25 North College Avenue, Newark, DE 19716, U.S.A

2 Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, U.S.A

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Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:39  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-39

Published: 28 April 2014



Increased potassium intake has been shown to lower blood pressure (BP) even in the presence of high sodium consumption however the role of dietary potassium on vascular function has received less attention. The aim of this study was to evaluate the relationship between habitual intake of sodium (Na) and potassium (K) and measures of arterial stiffness and wave reflection.


Thirty-six young healthy adults (21 M, 15 F; 24 ± 0.6 yrs; systolic BP 117 ± 2; diastolic BP 63 ± 1 mmHg) recorded their dietary intake for 3 days and collected their urine for 24 hours on the 3rd day. Carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity (PWV) and the synthesis of a central aortic pressure waveform (by radial artery applanation tonometry and generalized transfer function) were performed. Aortic augmentation index (AI), an index of wave reflection, was calculated from the aortic pressure waveform.


Subjects consumed an average of 2244 kcals, 3763 mg Na, and 2876 mg of K. Average urinary K excretion was 67 ± 5.3 mmol/24 hr, Na excretion was 157 ± 11 mmol/24 hr and the average Na/K excretion ratio was 2.7 ± 0.2. An inverse relationship between AI and K excretion was found (r = -0.323; p < 0.05). A positive relationship between AI and the Na/K excretion ratio was seen (r = 0.318; p < 0.05) while no relationship was noted with Na excretion alone (r = 0.071; p > 0.05). Reflection magnitude, the ratio of reflected and forward waves, was significantly associated with the Na/K excretion ratio (r = 0.365; p <0.05) but not Na or K alone. PWV did not correlate with Na or the Na/K excretion ratio (p > 0.05) but showed an inverse relationship with K excretion (r = -0.308; p < 0.05).


These data suggest that lower potassium intakes are associated with greater wave reflection and stiffer arteries in young healthy adults.

Potassium; Sodium; Wave reflection; Arterial stiffness