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Why Potassium and not Phosphorus is the bogey for Indian dialyzors

Posted Jul 13 2011 8:56am
When I first started going over posts in forums meant for people on dialysis (most people were from the US), I would find so many mentions of Phosphorus. People would crib about having to take binders. They would worry about the Phosphorus content of the different foods they would take.

Surprisingly, I never heard as much a fuss being made about Phosphorus among Indian doctors, dietitians and patients. Here Potassium was the popular word! Be careful about your Potassium. Don't eat fruits. Phosphorus was mentioned only in passing.

I often wondered about the difference in attitude in these two populations.

Could it be chiefly due to the difference in diet?

Indians, probably, on an average eat much less meat than Americans. Indians, probably, also consume much less dairy produce (milk, cheese, butter etc.) than Americans. These two are huge sources of Phosphorus. Another source of Phosphorus is colas and other aerated drinks. Preserved food also has much higher Phosphorus than fresh food because many of the preservatives have Phosphorus. Americans, again, consume more of preserved food and aerated drinks than Indians.

A senior nephrologist in Hyderabad once said that the problem with the diet in the average Indian dialysis patient is one of too little, not one of too much! Some dialysis patients I see are actually malnourished. They barely eat anything. In most of these people, Phosphorus is usually on the lower side of normal. At one point the nephrologist just tells their families not to restrict anything!

Potassium is a more of a problem even in the healthier patients. Could it be due to the propensity of Indian patients to eat more of vegetables and fruits? Most likely. There not being any Potassium binders (not here, not in the US) adds to this problem and the perception of it being a problem.

When I was on thrice a week dialysis too, Potassium was my big problem. I didn't even think about Phosphorus! These days, of course, I am on Phosphorus supplements because my Phosphorus is too low!
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