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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 25, 2009

Differences in serum potassium concentrations between Chinese, Indians and Malays

Robert C. Hawkins


Background: It has been suggested that potassium concentrations may vary between different geographical regions, possibly reflecting ethnic differences in potassium status. This study compared the serum potassium concentrations of three Asian ethnicities in a single geographical location.

Methods: Details of simultaneous serum potassium, creatinine, cholesterol, triglyceride and serum index measurements for samples from polyclinics and health screening were extracted for multivariable linear regression. Haemolysed and duplicate patient samples were excluded. Separate analysis was performed based on measurement platform (Roche or Beckman-Coulter) and patient location.

Results: Eighty-five thousand nine hundred and ninety-seven records met the inclusion criteria. When controlled for age, gender, serum creatinine, cholesterol and triglyceride, the average serum potassium concentration in Indians was 0.13–0.16 mmol/L higher than in Malays, who in turn had average serum potassium concentrations 0.05–0.06 mmol/L higher than Chinese when controlled for age, gender, serum creatinine, cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations. For patients undergoing health screening, the average serum potassium concentration in Indians and Malays was 0.12 mmol/L higher than in Chinese.

Conclusions: Chinese individuals have lower average serum potassium concentrations than Indians and Malays. This may have clinical implications in relation to the high occurrence of thyrotoxic hypokalaemic paralysis and the aetiology of sudden unexplained death syndrome (SUDS) in Asians.

Clin Chem Lab Med 2010;48:105–8.

Corresponding author: Dr. Robert Hawkins, Department of Laboratory Medicine, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, 11 Jalan Tan Tock Seng, 308433 Singapore Phone: +(65) 63578943, Fax: +(65) 62536507,

Received: 2009-7-3
Accepted: 2009-9-8
Published Online: 2009-11-25
Published in Print: 2010-01-01

©2010 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin New York

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