The National Institutes of Health announced Friday that it will spend $10 million to conduct a new study of potassium ion concentrations in humans.
The study will use a large-scale, randomized, double-blinded trial, which will look at people with high or low potassium ion levels and the effect they have on health.
The study will examine both potassium and other minerals in the blood, urine and tissues.
The NIH said the goal of the study is to figure out whether low- and high-level potassium levels in the body can be measured with ultrasounds and if that can help scientists understand how the body develops chronic diseases.
In its announcement, the NIH said there is still much work to be done to understand the impact of potassium on the human body, including whether it could be used to predict the onset of chronic disease.
“The health risks associated with high-potassium diets have been well documented in humans,” NIH director Francis Collins said in a statement.
“These findings provide important new insights into how these diets might impact health.
It is imperative that we understand how these effects may impact health and the broader public.”
Low- and middle-level ion concentrations have been linked to health problems including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
The National Academy of Sciences released a report in November that concluded there was evidence that low-level low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is a key component of the cholesterol-lowering effects of a low-carbohydrate diet, is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
“Low-level sodium may contribute to the formation of high-density cholesterol, and we need to understand whether that can be used as a biomarker to predict disease risk,” the study authors wrote.