Adverse effects of sodium chloride on bone in the aging human population resulting from habitual consumption of typical American diets

J Nutr. 2008 Feb;138(2):419S-422S. doi: 10.1093/jn/138.2.419S.


A typical American diet contains amounts of sodium chloride far above evolutionary norms and potassium far below those norms. It also contains larger amounts of foods that are metabolized to noncarbonic acids than to organic bases. At baseline, in a steady state, diets that contain substantial sodium chloride and diets that are net acid producing each independently induce and sustain increased acidity of body fluid. With increasing age, the kidney's ability to excrete daily net acid loads declines, invoking homeostatically increased utilization of base stores (bone, skeletal muscle) on a daily basis to mitigate the otherwise increasing baseline metabolic acidosis, which results in increased calciuria and net losses of body calcium. Those effects of net acid production and its attendant increased body fluid acidity may contribute to development of osteoporosis and renal stones, loss of muscle mass, and age-related renal insufficiency. The inverted ratio of potassium to sodium in the diet compared with preagricultural diets affects cardiovascular function adversely and contributes to hypertension and stroke. The diet can return to its evolutionary norms of net base production inducing low-grade metabolic alkalosis and a high potassium-to-sodium ratio by 1) greatly reducing content of energy-dense nutrient-poor foods and potassium-poor acid-producing cereal grains, which would entail increasing consumption of potassium-rich net base-producing fruits and vegetables for maintenance of energy balance, and 2) greatly reducing sodium chloride consumption. Increasingly, evidence supports the health benefits of reestablishing evolutionary norms of dietary net base loads and high potassium and low sodium chloride loads. We focus here on the American diet's potential effects on bone through its superphysiologic content of sodium chloride.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acid-Base Equilibrium / drug effects*
  • Aging
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects*
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Osteoporosis
  • Sodium Chloride / adverse effects*
  • United States


  • Sodium Chloride