Effect of excess dietary salt on calcium metabolism and bone mineral in a spaceflight rat model

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1995 Jan;78(1):70-5. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1995.78.1.70.


High levels of salt promote urinary calcium (UCa) loss and have the potential to cause bone mineral deficits if intestinal Ca absorption does not compensate for these losses. To determine the effect of excess dietary salt on the osteopenia that follows skeletal unloading, we used a spaceflight model that unloads the hindlimbs of 200-g rats by tail suspension (S). Rats were studied for 2 wk on diets containing high salt (4 and 8%) and normal calcium (0.45%) and for 4 wk on diets containing 8% salt (HiNa) and 0.2% C (LoCa). Final body weights were 9-11% lower in S than in control rats (C) in both experiments, reflecting lower growth rates in S than in C during pair feeding. UCa represented 12% of dietary Ca on HiNa diets and was twofold higher in S than in C transiently during unloading. Net intestinal Ca absorption was consistently 11-18% lower in S than in C. Serum 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D was unaffected by either LoCa or HiNa diets in S but was increased by LoCa and HiNa diets in C. Despite depressed intestinal Ca absorption in S and a sluggish response of the Ca endocrine system to HiNa diets, UCa loss did not appear to affect the osteopenia induced by unloading. Although any deficit in bone mineral content from HiNa diets may have been too small to detect or the duration of the study too short to manifest, there were clear differences in Ca metabolism from control levels in the response of the spaceflight model to HiNa diets, indicated by depression of intestinal Ca absorption and its regulatory hormone.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Bone Density / drug effects*
  • Calcium / blood
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Dihydroxycholecalciferols / metabolism
  • Drinking / physiology
  • Eating / physiology
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Growth / physiology
  • Hypogravity*
  • Intestinal Absorption / drug effects
  • Male
  • Parathyroid Hormone / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sodium / metabolism
  • Sodium, Dietary / pharmacology*


  • Dihydroxycholecalciferols
  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • Sodium, Dietary
  • Sodium
  • Calcium