J Med Assoc Thai 1998; 81 (8):616

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Potassium Contents of Northeastern Thai Foods
Sriboonlue P Mail, Prasongwatana V , Suwantrai S , Bovornpadungkitti S , Tungsanga K , Tosukhowong P

From our previous nutritional assessment, low potassium (K) intake among northeastern
Thai males has been clearly demonstrated. This prompted us to undertake a survey of the K content
of local foods. Food samples comprised of 57 animal and 142 plant products which were
collected from various places in the northeast of Thailand. The dry ashing method was used to
prepare the samples for K analysis using an atomic absorption spectrophotometer. Foods could
be divided into 7 groups according to their K levels. Foods containing K ≥ 1000 mg per 100 g fresh
food were categorized in group 1. These were mainly foods in the legume group, i.e., soybean,
cowpea and mungbean. While rice (polished) and rice products, the main staple, were in group 7,
the lowest K group of less than 100 mg per 100 g fresh food.
Comparison studies of the natural foods between those collected from the northeast and
from the central regions of the country, and between the cooked foods purchased from the rural
villages and from the urban areas of Khon Kaen municipality, showed that, for most food items,
the K content was similar wherever it came from. However, when the K content in various parts
or in different stages of growth of the same kind of plants or animals was compared, a great
variation was clearly seen, for example, young tamarind leaves contained K in group 6 whereas
ripe tamarind fruit contained K in group I. According to our food consumption data, the analysis
of food components of 48 meals taken during the hot season by 13 rural volunteers revealed
that food items eaten with the highest frequencies and in the largest amount were those in the low
K food groups, i.e., glutinous rice (group 7) and green papaya (group 6). Our results suggest that
the low K intake of these northeast rural Thai people is not due to a low K content of foods in
this region, but rather that their food habits and low socioeconomic status restricts consumption
of those food items with higher K contents.

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