Scientists in the US have revealed that reduced levels of potassium in the blood could be a factor behind why African–Americans face double the risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than white people. The findings may lead to the greater use of potassium supplements as a possible treatment for the metabolic condition.
With over 8 per cent of Americans, around 23.6 million people, suffering from type 2 diabetes, and the disease hitting African-Americans disproportionately, there has been much research into the reasons for this imbalance, such as differences in socioeconomic status, diet and genetics . However, the researchers argue that these are insufficient to account for all the disparity, and that serum potassium has been identified as a new risk factor .
Hsin-Chieh Yeh, who worked on the study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, commented “This research doesn’t mean people should run out and start taking potassium supplements. But we now know lower serum potassium is an independent risk factor for diabetes and that African–Americans have, on average, lower potassium levels than whites.”
She added “What remains to be seen is if increasing potassium levels through diet or supplementation can prevent the most common form of diabetes.”
The scientists showed that low levels of potassium have been linked in healthy people to higher insulin and glucose levels, two major signs of diabetes, and that it would be useful to conduct clinical trials into the effect of changing potassium levels on diabetes risk .

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