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Potassium is an electrolyte mineral that is essential in the human diet. Among its numerous functions in the body, potassium helps regulate blood pressure, water balance, acid balance, and muscle and nerve cell function. Supplemental forms of potassium include potassium salts (such as chloride and bicarbonate), chelates (aspartate, citrate, gluconate, etc.), and food-based sources.
Potassium is found in a wide variety of foods, with fresh fruits and vegetables being the richest sources. Meat, fish, and dairy products are also significant sources.
The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for potassium is 3,500 mg per day for adults and children over four. Intake of 5.6 grams per day is considered safe. Excess potassium is normally excreted in the urine, so toxic accumulations are rare. People with kidney disease may need to limit potassium intake because of the kidneys' inability to remove excess potassium from the system. Symptoms of potassium toxicity include diarrhea, numbness, and weakened heart and respiratory function. Potassium supplements may have harmful interactions with some prescription drugs, including many blood pressure-lowering drugs. If you are taking prescription medication, consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking potassium supplements.