Estimation of Net Endogenous Noncarbonic Acid Production in Humans From Diet Potassium and Protein Contents

Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Sep;68(3):576-83. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/68.3.576.


Normal adult humans eating Western diets have chronic, low-grade metabolic acidosis, the severity of which is determined in part by the net rate of endogenous noncarbonic acid production (NEAP), which varies with diet. To prevent or reverse age-related sequelae of such diet-dependent acidosis (eg, bone and muscle loss), methods are needed for estimating and regulating NEAP. Because NEAP is difficult to measure directly, we sought a simple method to estimate it from diet-composition data. We focused on protein and potassium contents because the production of sulfuric acid from protein metabolism and bicarbonate from dietary potassium salts of organic acids are the major variable components of NEAP. Using steady state renal net acid excretion (RNAE) as an index of NEAP in 141 normal subjects eating 20 different diets, we found by multiple linear regression analysis that RNAE [mEq/d x 10460 kJ diet (mEq/d 2500 kcal)] was predictable (R2 = 0.62) from protein [g/d x 10460 kJ diet (g/d 2500 kcal); positive regression coefficient, P < 0.001] and potassium [mEq/d x 10460 kJ diet (mEq/d x 2500 kcal): negative regression coefficient, P = 0.001] contents, which were not themselves correlated. Among diets, 71% of the variation in RNAE could be accounted for by the ratio of protein (Pro) to potassium (K) content: RNAE = 62Pro/K - 17.9 (r = 0.84, R2 = 0.71, P < 0.001). Thus, by considering both the acidifying effect of protein and the alkalinizing effect of potassium (organic anions), NEAP can be predicted with confidence from the readily available contents of only 2 nutrients in foods. Provisionally, these findings allow estimation and regulation of NEAP through diet modification.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acidosis / etiology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bicarbonates / metabolism*
  • Bicarbonates / urine
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism*
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Potassium / administration & dosage
  • Potassium / metabolism*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Regression Analysis


  • Bicarbonates
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Potassium