Increasing potassium intake to control blood pressure in children
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally. An estimated 17.5 million people died from CVDs in 2012, representing 31% of all deaths worldwide. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk for CVDs. Children with elevated blood pressure are at high risk of CVD pathology during childhood, and are also at high risk for hypertension and CVDs as adults.
Evidence shows that increasing potassium intake significantly reduces blood pressure in adults. In children, available studies show that increasing potassium intake reduces blood pressure by a small, but non-significant amount. Potassium is found in a variety of unrefined foods, including beans and peas, nuts, vegetables such as spinach, cabbage and parsley and fruits such as bananas, papayas and dates. Food processing reduces the amount of potassium in many food products, and a diet high in processed foods and low in fresh fruits and vegetables is often lacking in potassium.
Given the small number of trials in children, guidelines were developed based on systematic reviews for adults.
WHO suggests an increase in potassium intake from food to control blood pressure in children aged 2–15 years.
The recommended potassium intake of at least 90 mmol/day in adults should be adjusted downward for children, based on the energy requirements of children relative to those of adults.
These recommendations complement the WHO guideline on sodium consumption and should not be interpreted to replace or supersede that guideline. Public health interventions should aim to reduce sodium intake and simultaneously increase potassium intake through foods. Additional information can be found in the guidance summary, and in the guideline under 'WHO documents' below.
Other guidance documents
Prevention of cardiovascular disease: Guideline for assessment and management of cardiovascular risk
Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases: Report of the joint WHO/FAO expert consultation, WHO Technical Report Series, No. 916 (TRS 916)
Systematic reviews used to develop the guidelines
Effect of increased potassium intake on blood pressure and potential adverse effects in children
Effect of increased potassium intake on blood pressure, renal function, blood lipids and other potential adverse effects
Effect of increased potassium intake on cardiovascular risk factors and disease: systematic review and meta-analyses