Malic acid supplementation increases urinary citrate excretion and urinary pH: implications for the potential treatment of calcium oxalate stone disease

J Endourol. 2014 Feb;28(2):229-36. doi: 10.1089/end.2013.0477. Epub 2013 Nov 9.


Background and purpose: Raising urinary pH and citrate excretion with alkali citrate therapy has been a widely used treatment in calcium nephrolithiasis. Citrate lowers ionized Ca(+2) concentrations and inhibits calcium salt precipitation. Conservative alternatives containing citrate such as fruit juices have been investigated and recommended. Any compound that induces systemic alkalosis will increase citraturia. Malate, a polycarboxylic anion like citrate, is a potential candidate for chelating Ca(+2) and for inducing systemic alkalinization. We undertook to investigate these possibilities.

Materials and methods: Theoretical modeling of malic acid's effects on urinary Ca(+2) concentration and supersaturation (SS) of calcium salts was achieved using the speciation program JESS. Malic acid (1200 mg/day) was ingested for 7 days by eight healthy subjects. Urines (24 hours) were collected at baseline and on day 7. They were analyzed for routine lithogenic components, including pH and citrate. Chemical speciation and SS were calculated in both urines.

Results: Modeling showed that complexation between calcium and malate at physiological concentrations of the latter would have no effect on SS. Administration of the supplement induced statistically significant increases in pH and citraturia. The calculated concentration of Ca(+2) and concomitant SS calcium oxalate (CaOx) decreased after supplementation, but these were not statistically significant. SS for the calcium phosphate salts hydroxyapatite and tricalcium phosphate increased significantly as a consequence of the elevation in pH, but values for brushite and octacalcium phosphate did not change significantly.

Conclusions: We speculate that consumption of malic acid induced systemic alkalinization leading to reduced renal tubular reabsorption and metabolism of citrate, and an increase in excretion of the latter. The decrease in SS(CaOx) was caused by enhanced complexation of Ca(+2) by citrate. We conclude that malic acid supplementation may be useful for conservative treatment of calcium renal stone disease by virtue of its capacity to induce these effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Calcium Oxalate / metabolism*
  • Citrates / urine*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Kidney Calculi / metabolism
  • Kidney Calculi / therapy*
  • Malates / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Models, Chemical
  • Phosphates / analysis
  • Young Adult


  • Citrates
  • Malates
  • Phosphates
  • Calcium Oxalate
  • malic acid