A high potassium diet is important for children and not just for adults. The taste preferences start early. More children are becoming hypertensive, and need a diet consisting of high potassium foods to lower blood pressure. Studies have been done on infants and children showing the importance of increased potassium and reduced sodium in their diet to reduce high blood pressure.
Hypertension is measured differently in young people than in adults. Because of the difference in size between adults and youngsters, the same numbers used in adults cannot be used. For children a blood pressure greater than the ninety fifth percentile of children of a given age and height is considered hypertension.
5% of children are hypertensive today compared to 1% in the 1970s. Among some groups of children, such as the inner city children, it is as high as 25% of children, and for obese children 30%. Obesity is often associated with inactivity, so the problem is not solely one of diet.
But the problem is growing and the secondary effects of high blood pressure are becoming more common in children. 40% of the hypertensive children have thickening effects on their heart. A study done on children dying of other causes showed effects also on blood vessels. The study examined the blood vessels of the children and compared the diets they were on. Those with a high sodium diet showed the streaks and plaques of early vascular disease, whereas the vessels of those on a normal sodium diet did not.
The potassium in the children's diet was not studied, but many studies have shown that a high sodium diet is associated with a low potassium intake. And to lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure, potassium needs to be taken in at 3 times the amount of sodium.
We develop our food preferences at an early age, and one effect of a preference for salt may be a programming effect of sodium in early life to increase blood pressure. Even after they returned to their usual diet, the higher blood pressure of infants on a high sodium diet persisted for at least 15 years.
But the preference for sodium can be decreased over a 3 to 4 week period. By gradually shifting the sodium content down and potassium content up, the preference can be slowly changed in adults. This gradual change can also be done in children, switching to a high potassium foods diet.
Multiple studies have corrected hypertension in adults by giving potassium. These studies were done by giving potassium chloride as a supplement, and they consistently showed a reduction in blood pressure. A few studies done with potassium citrate showed a similar reduction in blood pressure. Citrate is a bicarbonate precursor, and diets high in potassium are high in bicarbonate precursors.
Some feel the bicarbonate precursors may be more important than potassium. All the population studies showing improved health of people eating a high potassium diet cannot distinguish which is more important, since both are present in their diet. But since potassium chloride did as well as potassium citrate in reducing blood pressure in the medical studies, it would seem to favor potassium as more important.
Although there are no studies directly on the effect of a high potassium foods diet in children, indirect evidence seems to indicate the same favorable effects as in adults. If you are a parent and are switching to a high potassium diet, you can feel safe in switching your children at the same time. And you're probably helping to prevent hypertension, heart and vascular disease in them.
For a table of baby food, as well as tables on multiple categories of foods, go here. Baby food posts are listed under “high potassium baby foods.” The other food tables are listed by category. Or you can have a table of different high potassium foods sent to your email by signing up at the bottom of the page.