The acid-ash hypothesis revisited: a reassessment of the impact of dietary acidity on bone

J Bone Miner Metab. 2014 Sep;32(5):469-75. doi: 10.1007/s00774-014-0571-0. Epub 2014 Feb 21.


The acid-ash hypothesis states that when there are excess blood protons, bone is eroded to provide alkali to buffer the net acidity and maintain physiologic pH. There is concern that with the typical Western diet, we are permanently in a state of net endogenous acid production, which is gradually reducing bone. While it is clear that a high acid-producing diet generates increased urinary acid and calcium excretion, the effect of diet does not always have the expected results on BMD, fracture risk and markers of bone formation and resorption, suggesting that other factors are influencing the effect of acid/alkali loading on bone. High dietary protein, sodium and phosphorus intake, all of which are necessary for bone formation, were thought to be net acid forming and contribute to low BMD and fracture risk, but appear under certain conditions to be beneficial, with the effect of protein being driven by calcium repletion. Dietary salt can increase short-term markers of bone resorption but may also trigger 1,25(OH)2D synthesis to increase calcium absorption; with low calcium intake, salt intake may be inversely correlated with BMD but with high calcium intake, salt intake was positively correlated with BMD. With respect to the effect of phosphorus, the data are conflicting. Inclusion of an analysis of calcium intake may help to reconcile the contradictory results seen in many of the studies of bone. The acid-ash hypothesis could, therefore, be amended to state that with an acid-producing diet and low calcium intake, bone is eroded to provide alkali to buffer excess protons but where calcium intake is high the acid-producing diet may be protective.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acids / adverse effects*
  • Bone and Bones / physiology*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Models, Biological


  • Acids
  • Calcium