Mechanisms for falling urine pH with age in stone formers

Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2019 Jul 1;317(7):F65-F72. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00066.2019. Epub 2019 Apr 24.


One of the main functions of the kidney is to excrete an acid load derived from both dietary and endogenous sources, thus maintaining the pH of other fluids in the body. Urine pH is also of particular interest in stone formers, since it determines the presence of either calcium phosphate or uric acid content in stones. Others have noted in epidemiological studies a rise in incidence of low pH-dependent uric acid stones with age, coinciding with a decrease in the incidence of high pH-dependent phosphate stones. Taken together, these trends are suggestive of a longitudinal decline in urine pH in stone-forming patients, and, if true, this could explain the observed trends in stone incidence. We studied 7,891 stone formers, all of whom collected a 24-h urine sample and matching serum. Multivariate modeling revealed that urine pH did indeed fall with age and particularly between the ages of 20 and 50 yr old in both men and women. We sought to explain this trend through the inclusion of traditionally understood determinants of urine pH such as urinary buffers, estimates of glomerular filtration, and dietary acid load, but these, taken together, accounted for but a small fraction of the pH fall. Gastrointestinal anion absorption was the strongest predictor of urine pH in all age groups, as we have previously reported in middle-aged normal men and women. However, we found that, despite a decreasing urine pH, gastrointestinal anion absorption increased monotonically with age. In fact, after adjustment for gastrointestinal anion absorption, urine pH declined more markedly, suggesting that bicarbonate-producing anion absorption is regulated in a manner that offsets the decline of urine pH.

Keywords: acid base; kidney stones; urine pH.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Ammonia / urine
  • Anions / metabolism
  • Bicarbonates / metabolism
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Kidney / physiopathology
  • Kidney Calculi / urine*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Potassium / blood
  • Potassium / urine
  • Sex Factors
  • Sulfates / urine
  • Urine / chemistry*


  • Anions
  • Bicarbonates
  • Sulfates
  • Ammonia
  • Potassium