Experimenting on mice, the researchers found that those who were fed extra potassium experienced less "aortic stiffness" and "vascular calcification".
"These findings demonstrate the potential benefits of potassium supplementation for the prevention of vascular hardening", said study author Dr. Paul Sanders of the University of Alabama, Birmingham, as quoted by the Daily Mail website on Monday (10/9/2017).
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For their study, the team fed mice high-fat diets supplemented with either low, normal, or high levels of potassium.
After they conclude the analysis, they noted that those mice who ate high doses of potassium had more flexible arteries than those who ate low amounts of the nutrient. According to this study, potassium-rich foods fall in the "good stuff" category.
Arteries become hard with a low-potassium diet.
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The researchers believe potassium regulates genes that maintain artery flexibility.
Pathogenic vascular calcification, also known as hardening of the arteries, is something which affects millions of people worldwide - especially once you get past a certain age. In addition, It will be also helpful in preventing such problems, according to the researchers. However, they think they are promising as potassium is associated with several human diseases. Also, the low-potassium mice had increased stiffness of their aortas, and high-potassium mice had decreased stiffness, as indicated by the arterial stiffness indicator called pulse wave velocity, which is measured by echocardiography in live animals. The scientists divided the total into three groups and gave them different levels of dietary potassium - 0.3 percent, 0.7 percent, and 2.1 percent weight/weight, respectively. Previous research by several labs including Chen's group has shown that calcification of vascular smooth muscle cells resembles the differentiation of bone cells, which leads to the transformation of smooth muscle cells into bone-like cells.
The higher level of calcium in the cells triggered a complex signalling mechanism promoting autophagy (the intracellular degradation system) which in turn resulted in calcification.
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