Potassium Bicarbonate for
Reduced Blood Pressure and
Increased Muscle Mass
Exclusive interview with Life Extension scientists
Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw . . .
urk & Sandy talk with Will Block about results they have gotten and expect to get from taking a potassium bicarbonate supplement.
Will: Sandy, what first got you interested in potassium bicarbonate?
Sandy: I was particularly attracted by new data showing that in postmenopausal women, potassium bicarbonate significantly reduced the loss of lean muscle mass, and that increased dietary potassium from alkaline foods reduced calcium excretion. I am 65 and still very muscular, but I am well aware that unopposed aging processes will make it difficult to retain that muscle and maintain healthy bone density, especially since I do little exercise.
Will: Sandy, you didn’t have an elevated blood pressure problem and you eat lots of vegetables. Why are you taking supplemental potassium bicarbonate?
Sandy: I do eat a lot of vegetables, but my dietary ratio of plant to animal foods is still nowhere near the 65% to 35% ratio of the Paleolithic human diet.
Will: Are any other effects of potassium bicarbonate of particular interest to you?
Sandy: Potassium bicarbonate reduces the risk of stroke independently of its beneficial effects on blood pressure. It also improves endothelial function (the ability of blood vessels to dilate in response to normal physiological regulatory signals); endothelial dysfunction is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and other diseases of aging (even erectile dysfunction) that involve reduced oxygen supplies to tissues.
Will: Durk, why did you become interested in potassium bicarbonate supplementation?
Durk: Because of my desire to avoid an untimely stress-induced death! My father had hypertension and he died of a stroke in his early 70s—and I’m already 65.
Until recently, I had always had healthy blood pressure. At my physical exam on November 29, 2006 my blood pressure was 100/78, which was good.
Then early in 2008, the fools and thieves in Washington DC were doing things that I knew would have a catastrophic and lasting effect on our economy. Almost everything that they have done and are continuing to do will further harm our economy. At the same time that my most dire economic predictions kept coming true and the Feds kept doing more and more damage with their bailouts, I developed borderline hypertension, which I believe was stress induced. My blood pressure was up to 120/95 at best and 145/120 on especially bad days. The measurements were essentially the same with two different electronic blood pressure meters and a mercury sphygmomanometer. Seriously not good!
Will: Did anything else change in your life during this period, other than your stress level?
Durk: No, my diet and supplementation were unchanged, as was my usually sedentary lifestyle, but the badly deteriorating economic situation and especially Washington’s damaging responses had me worried a lot. Even if one’s income hasn’t slid too badly, there is still the big question of how do you invest your money in a prudent manner to protect it from inflation, especially when the US tax code taxes inflation as if it were real income, and most especially when the politicians are changing the rules every day.
Will: Why did you start supplementing your diet with potassium bicarbonate?
Durk: I remembered reading scientific papers about the Paleolithic diet providing far more potassium and far less sodium than the modern American diet. I also knew that too high a ratio of sodium to potassium can cause or worsen hypertension in many people, particularly those under high stress. Furthermore, I was aware that I eat far too few veggies (a major potassium source)—much less than my ancestors of 20,000 years ago ate. Finally, I have congenital diabetes insipidus, which has nothing to do with insulin and blood sugar. My kidneys do not retain water and electrolytes—including potassium—as well as the kidneys of normal individuals. My urine volume is about one gallon per day, so my potassium excretion was high while my potassium intake was low, so I thought that a potassium supplement might be a partial solution to my borderline high blood pressure problem.
Will: What did you do next?
Durk: I started taking potassium bicarbonate as a supplement. I took about the same amount that can be contained in four capsules per day of a supplement.
Will: Did potassium bicarbonate supplementation help?
Durk: Several weeks later, on September 9, 2008 I underwent another physical exam. The nurse took my blood pressure with an electronic instrument, shook her head, and took a second measurement. It was obvious from her demeanor that something was wrong.
She asked my doctor to measure my blood pressure, and he soon had the “something wrong” look, too. He told me that I had an unusually large amount of muscle and that perhaps my arm arteries were buried too deeply for the electronic blood pressure meter to provide an accurate reading.
My doctor went to the equipment cabinet and pulled out a classical mercury sphygmomanometer. The doctor wrapped the cuff around my arm, put the stethoscope sensor under the cuff, and pumped it way up. As he released the pressure, I watched the steadily falling mercury column. As it went below 100 mmHg, it was still falling steadily instead of bouncing with my heart beat. I could see that it started bouncing at slightly more than 80 mmHg (systolic) and stopped bouncing as it dropped below 60 mmHg (diastolic).
My doctor took the cuff off of my arm, put it back on, and ran the test again. Then he did it for a third time and said, “Your blood pressure is only 82/60. That is very low. Do you have any problems with dizziness, fainting, or falling?” I grinned as I replied that I had no such problems and that as far as I was concerned, the lowest blood pressure without such problems was the best blood pressure. He agreed with my statement and said that he wished that he had my blood pressure.
Will: Is this a typical result of potassium bicarbonate supplementation?
Durk: No. This is what happened to me—different individuals will have different results. There are many different causes of high blood pressure, and potassium supplementation is not a panacea. If you are under stress, hypertensive, and are not obtaining the RDA of potassium in your diet (about 4.7 grams per day for an adult)—and most Americans aren’t—you should discuss potassium supplementation with your physician.
Will: Why do you think that the blood pressure lowering effect of potassium bicarbonate was so dramatic for you?
Durk: I suspect that my taking plenty of antioxidants and our InnerPower Plus™ (arginine + choline + pantothenate + cofactors) helped provide my arteries with lots of vasodilating nitric oxide. That was a good start but wasn’t all that I needed. Unfortunately, although I had plenty of nitric oxide, I also believe that I had a specific problem with vasoconstriction caused by stress-induced release of noradrenaline, also called norepinephrine. Potassium has a specific beneficial effect on this particular problem! “Potassium increases the uptake of norepinephrine into the sympathetic nerve terminals, leaving less in the cleft. This also promotes relaxation of the vascular smooth muscle and increases blood flow.” In this way, potassium acts to regulate the excitatory effects of norepinephrine. You can read more about it in our article “Potassium Bicarbonate Supplementation.”
(See page 15.)
Will: Should everyone take a potassium supplement?
Durk: NO! WARNING: IF YOU ARE TAKING A POTASSIUM SPARING DIURETIC PRESCRIPTION DRUG DO NOT TAKE SUPPLEMENTAL POTASSIUM! If you have kidney disease you should discuss potassium bicarbonate supplementation with your physician before use. Do not reduce your dose of antihypertensive drugs or discontinue them without consulting your physician.
Will, I know that you have been under a great deal of stress due to the badly damaged economy and that you, too, developed borderline hypertension. What was your blood pressure after the economic train wreck?
Will: Personally, I had been surprised to notice that my blood pressure had crept up over the years despite my large use of supplements. I was actually touching the borderline of hypertension (140/90). Then, as soon as I started taking potassium bicarbonate at 4.4 g/day, I noticed a big difference, dropping ten points off the top and about the same off the bottom. I’m now in my fourth week, and my systolic is averaging about 115, and my diastolic has been averaging in the low 70s, with readings as low as 68. Amazing!
Durk: You mentioned that Mark, your Manufacturing Director, has been under a lot of stress, too, and wasn’t happy with his blood pressure. What happened when he took potassium bicarbonate?
Will: Mark had been prescribed a beta-blocker that he used for years. (Beta blockers block the receptors for norepinephrine.) But he finally stopped taking it because he disliked the side effects. Since then, Mark has worked hard to control his blood pressure with diet, exercise, and faithfully has used your arginine formulation three times daily.
When he started using potassium bicarbonate at about 6.6 g/day, it had little effect. However, by increasing his dose to 9.9 g/day his blood pressure has dropped twelve points off the top (systolic) and eight points off the bottom (diastolic).
- Dawson-Hughes et al. Alkaline diets favor lean tissue mass in older adults. Am J Clin Nutr 87:662-5 (2008).
- Frassetto et al. Potassium bicarbonate reduces urinary nitrogen excretion in postmenopausal women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 82:254-59 (1997).
- Sebastian et al. The evolution-informed optimal dietary potassium intake of human beings greatly exceeds current and recommended intakes. Semin Nephrol 26:447-53 (2006).
- Alaimo et al. Daily Intake of vitamins, minerals, and fiber of persons aged two months and over in the United States: Third National Health And Nutrition Survey, Phase 1, 1988-91. Adv Data 258:1-28 (1994).
- Haddy et al. Role of potassium in regulating blood flow and blood pressure. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 290:R546-52 (2006).
Will Block is the publisher and editorial director of Life Enhancement magazine.