Higher dietary potassium intake is associated with an increased risk of death in long-term hemodialysis (HD) patients, new findings suggest.

A team led by Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh, MD, MPH, PhD, of the Harold Simmons Center for Chronic Disease Research and Epidemiology in Torrance, Calif., studied a five-year (2001-2006) cohort of 224 long-term HD patients receiving treatment at eight DaVita dialysis clinics. The researchers estimated dietary potassium intake based on patient responses to a food frequency questionnaire at the start of the study.

Compared with the lowest quartile of potassium intake, the highest quartile was associated with a significant 2.4 times increased risk of death, after adjusting for numerous variables, including serum potassium levels, dietary protein and phosphorus intake, and nutritional and inflammatory marker levels. Study findings appear in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases (2010;56:338-347).

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The authors concluded that their results “support the importance of dietary interventions on survival in patients with CKD and suggest a potential role for dietary potassium in the high mortality rate for dialysis patients.”