To determine whether an animal model could be used to study the susceptibility of women to antacid-induced phosphate deficiency, 6-wk-old male and female rats were given basic aluminum carbonate gel (Basaljel) (1 ml/100 g body wt) or distilled water by gastric intubation daily for 3 wk. Rats were fed either ad libitum (group 1) or by pair-feeding (group 2) with pelleted rat food containing 0.74% phosphorus. In group 1, baseline, 1-wk, and 3-wk values for serum phosphorus in Basaljel-treated females were 7.7 +/- 0.2, 6.3 +/- 0.2, and 6.2 +/- 0.2 mg/dl, respectively. Corresponding values for control females were 7.8 +/- 0.3, 7.0 +/- 0.2, and 7.3 +/- 0.2 mg/dl. Values for treated females were significantly lower (p less than 0.02) than values for control females by 1 wk of treatment. Basaljel-treated males did not differ from controls. The pattern for group 2 was similar. Intestinal absorption and intramuscular stores of phosphate were assessed in group 1. After 3 wk of treatment, [32P]phosphate assimilation from the duodenum into the body was lower in Basaljel-treated females than in controls (33.8% +/- 1.9% vs. 49.8% +/- 6.2% of the luminally administered dose, p less than 0.05). This was due to increased retention of [32P]phosphate in the intestine of treated females (19.9% +/- 2.0% vs. 11.9% +/- 2.4% for control females, p less than 0.02). Results in jejunum were similar. Total intramuscular phosphate in females was significantly lower (p less than 0.005) than in males both before and after antacid treatment. Thus hypophosphatemia in the female rat during antacid administration is probably secondary to the additive effects of decreased assimilation and decreased soft tissue stores of phosphate.