Ranee Chatterjee, MD, assistant professor of medicine, published the results of her pilot study on potassium supplements and their effects on glucose metabolism. The results of her pilot clinical trial were featured in the November 2017 edition of The American Journal for Clinical Nutrition.
Findings from epidemiologic research suggest that having low potassium can be a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and a potentially modifiable risk factor, particularly for African Americans. Montgomery’s study, “Effects of potassium supplements on glucose metabolism in African Americans with prediabetes,” was designed to examine that racial disparity and determine if potassium chloride supplements had any impact on glucose metabolism.
Before arriving at Duke, Chatterjee had been interested in diabetes prevention. She holds a master’s degree in public health in epidemiology and completed a research fellowship. She received a CTSA KL2 grant in 2014 to delve deeper into this project. The Duke CTSA KL2 program, managed through the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), provides training and research opportunities for junior investigators.
“These smaller projects inform bigger trials,” she said. “I am indebted to the KL2 for supporting small pilots.”
In her study, Chatterjee worked with the Primary Care Research Consortium (PCRC) to recruit patients from Duke Primary Care clinics in Sutton Station and Croasdaile in Durham, NC. Twenty-seven patients completed the study, during which half the patients received 40 mEq of potassium once a day for three months. Although she worked with a smaller sample size, Chatterjee observed that the group receiving potassium supplements maintained a stable or improved fasting glucose and demonstrated trends of improved insulin sensitivity.
For future studies, Chatterjee hopes to increase her dosage for patients up to 120 mEq per day. She is in the process of applying for grants to conduct an extension of this study with a larger sample size.
This study has been a passion of Chatterjee’s for years, and were it not for the resources at CTSI, she would not have been able to get it off the ground.
As Chatterjee explains, there are prevention efforts for diabetes currently focused on weight loss, but weight loss can be difficult to achieve. Other modifiable risk factors such as a patient’s potassium levels could potentially be addressed more easily and in addition to weight loss.
“Diabetes is truly a worldwide epidemic, and people experience a lot of complications from diabetes,” Chatterjee said. “Being able to prevent diabetes would be the ideal solution to the epidemic.”