Urine pH or Acid Excretion Doesn’t Predict Bone Density or Fractures


Low urine pH and acid excretion do not predict bone fractures or the loss of bone mineral density: a prospective cohort study.

The acid-ash hypothesis, the alkaline diet, and related products are marketed to the general public. Websites, lay literature, and direct mail marketing encourage people to measure their urine pH to assess their health status and their risk of osteoporosis. The objectives of this study were to determine whether 1) low urine pH, or 2) acid excretion in urine [sulfate + chloride + 1.8x phosphate + organic acids] minus [sodium + potassium + 2x calcium + 2x magnesium mEq] in fasting morning urine predict: a) fragility fractures; and b) five-year change of bone mineral density (BMD) in adults.
Design: Cohort study: the prospective population-based Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study. Multiple logistic regression was used to examine associations between acid excretion (urine pH and urine acid excretion) in fasting morning with the incidence of fractures (6804 person years). Multiple linear regression was used to examine associations between acid excretion with changes in BMD over 5-years at three sites: lumbar spine, femoral neck, and total hip (n = 651). Potential confounders controlled included: age, gender, family history of osteoporosis, physical activity, smoking, calcium intake, vitamin D status, estrogen status, medications, renal function, urine creatinine, body mass index, and change of body mass index.
There were no associations between either urine pH or acid excretion and either the incidence of fractures or change of BMD after adjustment for confounders.
Urine pH and urine acid excretion do not predict osteoporosis risk.

Fenton TR, Eliasziw M, Tough SC, Lyon AW…
BMC Musculoskelet Disord 2010
PMID: 20459740 | Free Full Text

The evidence to support the acid-ash hypothesis of osteoporosis predominantly comes from studies using changes in urine calcium as the outcome [6,8-12,46], some prospective observational studies [16,18,19,47] and one randomized trial [13]. Although one randomized trial has supported the hypothesis [13], another did not [40]. The randomized trial [13] supporting the hypothesis did not use concealment of allocation, a study quality indicator for randomized studies that is important to avoid bias during the randomization process [48]. Without concealment of allocation, investigators can influence the allocation of individuals into the treatment groups, invalidating the randomization. Trials that do not have concealed allocation can overestimate effectiveness of a therapy [49]. The more recent randomized trial, that concealed allocation, did not reveal any protective effect of either potassium citrate or increased fruit and vegetable consumption on change in BMD [14].

Three previous prospective cohort studies of the hypothesis reported some protective associations between fruit and vegetable, potassium, and/or vitamin C intakes and bone health [16,18,19], and thus may support the hypothesis, while two more recent cohort studies do not support it [50,51]. One of the positive reporting studies did not see a significant protective association for potassium once potential confounders were controlled [16]. Further, it is possible that the associations in agreement with the hypothesis in the cohort studies were due to uncontrolled confounding by estrogen status [19], baseline BMD [16,19], change of weight status during follow-up [18], and/or vitamin D status [16,18,19,47].

Further, three recent meta-analyses of the acid-ash hypothesis do not support the hypothesis. First, a meta-analysis of calcium balance studies, restricted to studies of superior methodology, revealed no association between net acid excretion and calcium balance, in spite of the strong relationship between net acid excretion and urinary calcium [52]. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of protein intake on bone health revealed a small beneficial effect of protein supplementation on lumbar spine BMD in randomized placebo-controlled trials [53]. Further, the acid-ash hypothesis predicts higher phosphate intakes would be associated with increased urinary calcium and lower calcium balance, but this was not supported by a third recent meta-analysis [54].