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Editor's Correspondence
July 12, 1999

Should We Fear "Health Foods"?

Arch Intern Med. 1999;159(13):1499. doi:

A 39-year-old white woman was found to have a serum potassium level of 2.9 mmol/L during an annual physical examination. Her magnesium level was normal. She was not known to be taking prescription drugs that cause hypokalemia, and she denied use of diuretics or laxatives. Further questioning revealed that she recently had consumed large amounts of a "cleansing tea" that she had purchased from a health food company. Among the ingredients were alfalfa and nettles, both of which have diuretic properties, and licorice, which can contribute to hypokalemia through the aldosterone-like effect of glycyrrhizic acid. She was told to discontinue the tea-drinking, potassium supplements were prescribed, and the serum potassium level normalized.

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