serum potassium

Any pathological changes in potassium levels of the body are associated with various medical conditions that are of serious health concern. A recent African-American population study by scientists in the United States revealed adults with normal aldosterone exhibited an influence on the association between serum potassium levels and diabetes onset.


Potassium, which is an important electrolyte of the body, is required for performing various cellular activities. Especially, potassium intake, excretion, and hormones have a significant impact on serum potassium levels, which influence homeostatic mechanisms and insulin secretion. Most importantly, potassium existence in the body either at higher or lower levels is of serious health concern. Traditionally, serum and dietary potassium are found to play a significant role in the onset of complex chronic diseases like diabetes. Usually, diuretic usage (medications employed for excessive urination) not only establishes an association of serum potassium with diabetes but also an enhancement in hormone levels of aldosterone concentrations. In this aspect, Chatterjee and his colleagues at Duke University, USA, carried out a study for establishing an association between potassium concentrations and diabetes, along with investigating the influence of serum aldosterone concentrations on these associations. The key findings of the study were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2016.

Scientists in the United States considered 2157 African-American adult participants aged 21-95 years as study subjects for revealing a relationship between serum potassium and diabetes. Only participants with diabetes above the baseline from the Jackson Heart Study were included, while those with missing information about diabetes mellitus, diabetes status at baseline, lack of diabetes status information at follow-up visits, those suffering from kidney disease and those with improper serum potassium or aldosterone measures were excluded from the study.  For establishing a relationship of serum, dietary, and urinary potassium with diabetes onset, a regression analysis was performed. Later, hormonal aldosterone was considered as a potential intervention factor for establishing these associations.  Interestingly, 398 of the subjects were found to be suffering with diabetes for over 8 years. It was also reported that serum potassium was observed to be a key factor for the occurrence of diabetes. In addition, results indicated significant interaction between serum potassium and aldosterone.

Generally, aldosterone is involved in the regulation of potassium concentrations; higher concentrations are involved in lowering the concentrations of potassium in the body by enhancing the renal, as well as urinary, potassium output. In the present study, individuals with high-normal aldosterone (≥9 ng/dL) were not found to exhibit any significant association between serum potassium levels and diabetes occurrence, indicating aldosterone was not an important factor for the occurrence of diabetes in these cases. Further, individuals with normal aldosterone and high potassium levels had a more significant association with reduced occurrence of diabetes risk than those with the lowest potassium levels. In addition, dietary or urinary potassium exhibited no association with incident diabetes. Therefore, results of the study clearly indicate a key relationship between serum potassium and diabetes.

In summary, serum potassium plays a key role in diabetes risk, especially in the African-American adult population. In addition, hormonal aldosterone at normal levels was also found to have a significant impact on the association between serum potassium and diabetes. Furthermore, studies on other factors are needed for understanding their influence on serum potassium level (high to normal), thereby reducing the onset of diabetes risk.


Written By: Manche Santoshi, PhD

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