Context: Bicarbonate has been implicated in bone health in older subjects on acid-producing diets in short-term studies.

Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the effects of potassium bicarbonate and its components on changes in bone resorption and calcium excretion over 3 months in older men and women.

Design, Participants, and Intervention: In this double-blind, controlled trial, 171 men and women age 50 and older were randomized to receive placebo or 67.5 mmol/d of potassium bicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate, or potassium chloride for 3 months. All subjects received calcium (600 mg of calcium as triphosphate) and 525 IU of vitamin D3 daily.

Main Outcome Measures: Twenty-four-hour urinary N-telopeptide and calcium were measured at entry and after 3 months. Changes in these measures were compared across treatment groups in the 162 participants included in the analyses.

Results: Bicarbonate affected the study outcomes, whereas potassium did not; the two bicarbonate groups and the two no bicarbonate groups were therefore combined. Subjects taking bicarbonate had significant reductions in urinary N-telopeptide and calcium excretion, when compared with subjects taking no bicarbonate (both before and after adjustment for baseline laboratory value, sex, and changes in urinary sodium and potassium; P = 0.001 for both, adjusted). Potassium supplementation did not significantly affect N-telopeptide or calcium excretion.

Conclusions: Bicarbonate, but not potassium, had a favorable effect on bone resorption and calcium excretion. This suggests that increasing the alkali content of the diet may attenuate bone loss in healthy older adults.


Originally published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism v.94 no.1 (January 1, 2009), pp. 96-102. DOI:10.1210/jc.2008-1662


potassium bicarbonate, calcium excretion, bone resorption, quantitative study

Subject Categories

Potassium - Physiological effect, Bone resorption, Calcium in the body


Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism


The Endocrine Society

Publication Date


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Copyright © 2009

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The Endocrine Society

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