Nutritional disturbance in acid-base balance and osteoporosis: a hypothesis that disregards the essential homeostatic role of the kidney.
The nutritional acid load hypothesis of osteoporosis is reviewed from its historical origin to most recent studies with particular attention to the essential but overlooked role of the kidney in acid-base homeostasis. This hypothesis posits that foods associated with an increased urinary acid excretion are deleterious for the skeleton, leading to osteoporosis and enhanced fragility fracture risk. Conversely, foods generating neutral or alkaline urine would favour bone growth and Ca balance, prevent bone loss and reduce osteoporotic fracture risk. This theory currently influences nutrition research, dietary recommendations and the marketing of alkaline salt products or medications meant to optimise bone health and prevent osteoporosis. It stemmed from classic investigations in patients suffering from chronic kidney diseases (CKD) conducted in the 1960s. Accordingly, in CKD, bone mineral mobilisation would serve as a buffer system to acid accumulation. This interpretation was later questioned on both theoretical and experimental grounds. Notwithstanding this questionable role of bone mineral in systemic acid-base equilibrium, not only in CKD but even more in the absence of renal impairment, it is postulated that, in healthy individuals, foods, particularly those containing animal protein, would induce ‘latent’ acidosis and result, in the long run, in osteoporosis. Thus, a questionable interpretation of data from patients with CKD and the subsequent extrapolation to healthy subjects converted a hypothesis into nutritional recommendations for the prevention of osteoporosis. In a historical perspective, the present review dissects out speculation from experimental facts and emphasises the essential role of the renal tubule in systemic acid-base and Ca homeostasis.
…experiments carried out among patients suffering from severe metabolic acidosis caused by renal insufficiency, or among healthy subjects made acidotic by administering NH4Cl, suggested the involvement of bone tissue in maintaining the acid–base balance. This hypothesis was later refuted on the basis of both theoretical and experimental arguments. Despite this rebuttal, the hypothesis was put forward that bone could play a buffering role, with the consideration that nutrients, particularly animal proteins with their acid load, could be a major cause of osteoporosis. Several recent human studies have shown that there is no relationship between nutritionally induced variations of urinary acid excretion and Ca balance, bone metabolism and the risk of osteoporotic fractures. Variations in human diets across a plausible range of intakes have been shown to have no effect on blood pH. Consistent with this lack of a mechanistic basis, long-term studies of alkalinising diets have shown no effect on the age-related change in bone fragility. Consequently, advocating the consumption of alkalinising foods or supplements and/or removing animal protein from the human diet is not justified by the evidence accumulated over the last several decades.