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Use of Potassium and the Potential for Toxic Exposure

Potassium, as a chemical, obeys the principle of “the dose makes the poison”. This hypothesis implies that a chemical may be useful in one type of exposure but toxic in another. Several chemicals comply with the logic. The beneficial and toxic effects of such chemicals are directly proportional to the number of drugs in use (Myers and Hessler, 2007). Potassium falls in the group of drugs that have both intentional beneficial uses and potential toxic exposures, though it also has a substantial margin of safety.

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Potassium has many health benefits. However, one should take the correct dosage to realize the advantages. The chemical lowers a person’s chance of suffering from heart failure and rhythmic problems. High levels of cholesterol may increase the chances of getting heart diseases. Research indicates that potassium helps to lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood. In addition, it lowers risks of suffering from high blood pressure, cancer and obesity. Potassium also makes the kidney filter blood efficiently (Potassium: Heart Benefits and Side Effects, 2012). Evidently, the benefits of potassium are outstanding. Therefore, consumption of the right amount of the mineral offers better chances of healthy living.

On the other hand, potassium is poisonous, especially if it is abused. According to experts, elevated potassium levels pose severe life threats, since high levels of the chemical in the bloodstream may lead to improper functioning of the kidney and cause a condition known as hyperkalemia. The condition is highly fatal. The overdosage of potassium also causes attack by another deadly condition known as hyperventilation. This condition is characterized by rapid breathing. Hyperventilation occurs when the body attempts to naturally eliminate excess elements of the toxic compound. Other effects of potassium overdosage are heart palpitations, irregularities and arrhythmia. Arrhythmia is a cause of sudden deaths. In addition to the named effects, elevated levels of the compound may lead to the breakdown of communication in the nervous system leading to body weaknesses and eventually paralysis (What are the Effects of Elevated Potassium Levels, n.d). Therefore, inappropriate use of potassium has adverse side effects. Overconsumption of potassium-rich foods and overuse of its supplements is unhealthy. In preparing a balanced diet, therefore, one needs to keep in mind to comply with the requirements of potassium’s margin of safety to avoid health impediments.

A balanced diet should contain the right amounts of potassium minerals. The margin of safety varies depending on different factors, including age. Ingestion is the best method of obtaining potassium for all ages (Meschino, n.d). An adult requires between 800mg to 1500 mg of potassium per 1000 calories. This means daily diet contains from 2, 500 to 5,800mg of potassium. According to Meschino, everyday foods contain a sufficient quantity of the element. And if an adult takes an orange or banana, he or she consumes 500 mg of potassium. In case of insufficient or excessive supply of potassium, the margin of safety permits one to live normally. The two scenarios are compared as follows:

3,800mg +1000mg= 4,800mg

3,800 is an approximation within the limit of 2,500mg to 5,800mg (Meschino, n.d). In this case, a person gets 3, 8000mg from daily diet, and tops it up with 1,000mg from fruits. Two bananas can fill the deficit (2× 500mg = 1000mg).

5, 800-4, 800mg=1000mg.

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In this case, potassium intake outweighs the body’s nutritional requirement. Nevertheless, the body can safely discharge the excess chemicals naturally.


Meschino, J. (n.d.). Guide to POTASSIUM. Meschino Health: Free Health Assessment tools, Guide & Solutions for Healthy Aging. Web.

Myers, P., & Hessler, W. (n.d.). Environmental Health News: New Science. Environmental Health News: Front Page. Web.

Potassium: Heart Benefits and Side Effects. (2012.). WebMD – Better information. Better health.. Web.

What Are the Effects of Elevated Potassium Levels?. (n.d.). WiseGEEK: Clear Answers for Common Questions. Web.

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