A Miaoli doctor warned people with chronic kidney disease to control their intake of potassium, which can result in potentially fatal illnesses if consumed in excess.
Da Chien Hospital nephrologist Hsu Che-wei (許哲維) said that foods high in potassium can put a potentially fatal burden on the kidneys of those with chronic diseases, citing the case of a man who was rushed to an emergency room after eating a lot of kiwifruit.
The man, surnamed Chen (陳), received a box of the fruit as a gift and ate several in one day, saying they would go bad otherwise.
Chen has diabetes and high blood pressure, and was receiving regular medical treatment for those conditions, Hsu said.
Excessive consumption of the fruit caused his blood potassium levels to rise to 7.3 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L), more than twice the normal rate of 3.5mEq/L, Hsu said.
This resulted in a dangerous drop in his heart rate to 30 beats per minute, he said.
Potassium is important for the body, assisting with neural activity and muscle contraction, as well as regulating heartbeat, he said.
Potassium enters the diet largely through fruit, he said, adding that excessive potassium leaves the body of a person with normal liver functionality through urination.
However, in a person with an unhealthy liver, the excessive potassium makes its way into the bloodstream, which can bring about hyperkalemia, Hsu said.
In the initial stages of hyperkalemia a person might experience muscle fatigue, trembling and a lack of physical strength, he said.
As the condition progresses, it can affect the heart’s rhythm, possibly even leading to heart failure, he said.
Those with chronic kidney problems should limit their consumption of fruit high in potassium, such as citrus fruit, grapes, bananas, watermelon, papaya, dates, strawberries, loquats, kiwifruit, cantaloupes, peaches and tomatoes, he said.
People with kidney problems should avoid eating raw vegetables, which often contain high levels of potassium, he said.
It is advisable to boil vegetables for three to five minutes, or drink vegetable soup, Hsu said, adding that starchy vegetables — such as potatoes, taros, pumpkins and yams — should be eaten in moderation.
Low-sodium salt or soy sauce, coffee, strong tea, juice and foods that use chicken stock, such as chicken soup, should also be avoided, he said.
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