HealthWatermelon warnings: High potassium content risk for CKD patients

Watermelon warnings: High potassium content risk for CKD patients

Excess watermelon can kill. People with kidney problems need to be careful.
Excess watermelon can kill. People with kidney problems need to be careful.
Images source: © East News | Horst Hellwig
10:01 PM EDT, April 18, 2024

Rich in vitamins, low in calories, juicy, and delicious, watermelon is synonymous with summer and famed for its thirst-quenching abilities. It's an excellent choice for a snack or as part of savory dishes. Nevertheless, it's crucial to be aware that excessive consumption of this fruit could induce muscle weakness, irregular heartbeat, and, in extreme cases, death.

Watermelon isn't just tantalizing but also packed with health benefits. This fruit is full of essential vitamins (notably A, C, and B-group, including folic acid) and minerals like magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium. However, it's precisely the high potassium content that could pose a risk.

Who could be harmed by watermelon's high potassium content?

According to studies cited by "Focus" magazine and published in the "Annals of International Medicine," potassium is critical in how neurons transmit nerve signals, including those responsible for muscle contractions, and in maintaining blood pressure. Yet, watermelon's high potassium content could be detrimental for individuals with chronic kidney disease. In severe cases, it may even be fatal.

A single serving of watermelon (about 9.9-10.6 oz) harbors approximately 320-330 mg of potassium, contributing to roughly 12 percent of the recommended daily intake for women and about 9 percent for men.
Crucially, healthy kidneys can eliminate excess potassium through urine. However, for those with compromised kidney function, this filtering process is less efficient, leading to potential health risks.

The risk of hyperkalemia from eating watermelon

In a study involving individuals previously diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD), participants consumed significant amounts of watermelon or its juice daily for three weeks to two months.

This regimen resulted in the development of severe hyperkalemia (elevated potassium levels in the blood), manifesting as arrhythmias and a reduced heart rate. Limiting watermelon consumption subsequently normalized the potassium levels in these individuals' blood within a few months.

Though mild hyperkalemia might not exhibit symptoms, increasing potassium levels can cause heart complications, muscle weakness or paralysis, and, in severe cases, death.

The research underscores the importance of those diagnosed with CKD managing their intake of potassium-rich foods, thereby reducing their consumption of watermelon. Remarkably, up to 5 million Poles are affected by this condition.
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