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Potassium levels possible key to racial disparity in Type 2 diabetes
Date:3/2/2011

Lower potassium levels in the blood may help explain why African-Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as whites, according to a new study by Johns Hopkins researchers.

The findings, if confirmed, suggest that part of diabetes prevention may someday prove as easy as taking a cheap potassium supplement.

"This research doesn't mean people should run out and start taking potassium supplements," says Hsin-Chieh "Jessica" Yeh, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an author of the study, which appears in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. "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. What remains to be seen is if increasing potassium levels through diet or supplementation can prevent the most common form of diabetes."

Yeh and her colleagues analyzed data from more than 12,000 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC), information collected from 1987 and 1996. The more than 2,000 African-Americans in the study had lower average serum potassium levels than the more than 9,000 whites in the study, and they were twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The incidence of diabetes among study participants went up as potassium levels went down.

Type 2 diabetes affects more than 8 percent of Americans, or 23.6 million people, and the burden of the disease falls disproportionately on African-Americans. Many factors are thought to contribute to the greater prevalence of diabetes in African-Americans, including differences in socioeconomic status, diet, obesity and genetics. But researchers say these do not account for the entire disparity.

Serum potassium, Yeh and her colleagues found, appears to be a novel risk factor for the disorder that may explain some of the racial disparity in
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Contact: Stephanie Desmon
sdesmon1@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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