An evaluation of the importance of gastric acid secretion in the absorption of dietary calcium

J Clin Invest. 1984 Mar;73(3):640-7. doi: 10.1172/JCI111254.


Since calcium solubility is a prerequisite to calcium absorption, and since solubility of calcium is highly pH-dependent, it has been generally assumed that gastric acid secretion and gastric acidity play an important role in the intestinal absorption of calcium from ingested food or calcium salts such as CaCO3. To evaluate this hypothesis, we developed a method wherein net gastrointestinal absorption of calcium can be measured after ingestion of a single meal. A large dose of cimetidine, which markedly reduced gastric acid secretion, had no effect on calcium absorption in normal subjects, and an achlorhydric patient with pernicious anemia absorbed calcium normally. This was true regardless of the major source of dietary calcium (i.e., milk, insoluble calcium carbonate, or soluble calcium citrate). Moreover, calcium absorption after CaCO3 ingestion was the same when intragastric contents were maintained at pH 7.4 (by in vivo titration) as when intragastric pH was 3.0. On the basis of these results, we conclude that gastric acid secretion and gastric acidity do not normally play a role in the absorption of dietary calcium. Other possible mechanisms by which the gastrointestinal tract might solubilize ingested calcium complexes and salts are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Achlorhydria / complications
  • Achlorhydria / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Anemia, Pernicious / complications
  • Calcium Carbonate / metabolism
  • Calcium, Dietary / metabolism*
  • Cimetidine
  • Citrates / metabolism
  • Citric Acid
  • Female
  • Gastric Acid / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Intestinal Absorption*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Citrates
  • Citric Acid
  • Cimetidine
  • Calcium Carbonate