Avocado and tomatoes

Can low potassium cause anxiety?

The internet is awash with tales of causes and cures for anxiety. One of which is the idea that low potassium can cause anxiety.

According to Natural News, there is almost nothing low potassium cannot cause:

"If you suffer from anxiety, depression, insomnia, constipation, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney stones, hyperthyroidism, arthritis, obesity, headaches, pain in the eyes, muscle spasms, "restless leg syndrome," fatigue, or muscle tension, to name a few, you may be deficient in potassium."

Live Strong also claims that low potassium can be a cause:

"In relation to potassium, low levels can cause mental fatigue, stress and anxiety."

But is there any evidence for this?

The answer is maybe. We know that diet has a big effect on mental health1. When we eat well, our mental health improves, and when we eat poorly, our mental health declines.

However, the specific question of whether low potassium can cause anxiety is less clear.

There is one study to support the case: published in 1990 in the journal Anaesthesia2. It looked at 200 pre-operative patients and noted that they had small decreases in their levels of potassium.

However, it did not establish cause and effect. Therefore, we cannot say whether low potassium caused their anxiety, or whether their anxiety caused their drop in potassium levels. Increasing their potassium was not used as a treatment.

Conclusion

A well-rounded and healthy diet is the best way to improve your mental health. Potassium may or may not have an effect on some people with anxiety. However, there is no evidence that adding potassium to your diet improves anxiety.

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Published 6 February 2017. Written by Chris Worfolk.

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References

1 O'Neil A, Quirk SE, Housden S, et al. Relationship Between Diet and Mental Health in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Public Health. 2014;104(10):e31-e42. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302110.

2 McCleane, G. J. and Watters, C. H. (1990), Pre-operative anxiety and serum potassium. Anaesthesia, 45: 583–585. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2044.1990.tb14837.x