A Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, Nwabumma Asouzu, has urged pregnant women to avoid food laden with potash.
Asouzu stated that food high in potash could trigger high blood pressure as well as induce abortion and premature delivery during pregnancy.
According to her, studies have revealed that potash is the second most popularly used salt in Nigeria.
Speaking in an interview with PUNCH Healthwise, the dietician said potash, generally used to refer to a group of potassium-bearing minerals and chemicals, has lots of health risks when consumed in excess.
She noted that potash has high sodium content and very little potassium, adding that potash is widely used in Nigeria as a tenderising agent for local dish preparation, and also to relieve toothache, even as it serves as a preservative due to its antifungal properties.
Potash, she said, is also used for medicinal purposes, adding that some people use it as an herbal concoction for cough treatment, to relieve constipation and stomach ache, among others.
The dietician explained, “Consumption of potash can trigger high blood pressure among those who otherwise don’t have the condition, while a hypertensive person is advised to steer clear of eating foods prepared with high potash.
“Consumption of potash in high quantity increases the uterine contraction in women, which could induce premature delivery or abortion during the early stages of pregnancy. It also reduces the protein value in the diet.
“Potash has also been associated with loss of appetite, weakness, reduced activity level and weight loss in Wistar rats.”
Citing some published articles on the health risk of potash, Asouzu cautioned that its consumption should be reduced to the barest minimum, adding that a high intake of the substance could also lead to liver problems.
“In an article entitled Peripartum Cardiac Failure published in the Bulletin of World Health Organisation, potash was implicated in the incidence of peripartum cardiac failure (a type of heart failure that occurs during the last months of pregnancy or within a few months after childbirth) among nursing mothers, especially in the Northern region of Nigeria.
“It is also said that excessive intake of potash by men predisposed them to low sperm production.
“The high sodium content makes it accumulate in the blood and could trigger high blood pressure, and also makes it unfit for consumption by hypertensive individuals,” she said.
According to her, previous studies have also indicated that the high level of potash in foods and drinking water could be detrimental to human health.
Asouzu called on public health nutritionists to always educate the populace, especially the rural dwellers on the trends in foods and health to ensure they avoid some traditional harmful practices relating to their food intake.
She said awareness should be encouraged from time to time to educate the populace on some trivial and silent issues surrounding intake of some substances related to food such as potash”.