Nutrient effects on the calcium economy: Emphasizing the potassium controversy

Karen Rafferty, Robert P. Heaney

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


The calcium economy is a dynamic state influenced by fluxes in dietary calcium intake, intestinal calcium absorption, and renal calcium conservation. The relationship of selected bone-related nutrients to these calcium fluxes exhibits both constructive and destructive interactions that affect the overall state of calcium balance. The basis of the calcium requirement and the impact of vitamin D, protein, phosphorus, sodium, and caffeine on the calcium economy are reviewed. Against this background, emerging data on potassium are presented. Data from balance studies of healthy white women at midlife were reviewed to assess the effect of diet potassium on the calcium economy under steady-state conditions. Potassium was inversely associated with both urinary calcium excretion and intestinal calcium absorption, yielding no significant net change in calcium balance. In the population reported on here, dairy, meat, and cereal grains together contributed 56%, and fruits and vegetables 44%, of total dietary potassium. To the extent that fruit and vegetable potassium is a surrogate for high bicarbonate, this cohort did not have a dietary intake pattern allowing for measurement or interpretation of the potential effect of a high-bicarbonate- containing diet on long-term steady-state calcium balance. Potassium itself is uniformly well absorbed regardless of the dietary source. Mean 24-h urinary potassium averaged 92% of dietary intake. According to nationwide food consumption surveys, milk is the number 1 single food source of potassium in all age groups in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)166S-171S
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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