The acid-ash hypothesis posits that protein and grain foods, with a low potassium intake, produce a diet acid load, net acid excretion (NAE), increased urine calcium, and release of calcium from the skeleton, leading to osteoporosis. The objectives of this meta-analysis were to assess the effect of changes in NAE, by manipulation of healthy adult subjects' acid-base intakes, on urine calcium, calcium balance, and a marker of bone metabolism, N-telopeptides. This meta-analysis was limited to studies that used superior methodological quality for the study of calcium metabolism. We systematically searched the literature and included studies if subjects were randomized to the interventions and followed the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine's Panel on Calcium and Related Nutrients for calcium studies. Five of 16 studies met the inclusion criteria. The studies altered the amount and/or type of protein. Despite a significant linear rela-tionship between an increase in NAE and urinary calcium (p < 0.0001), there was no relationship between a change of NAE and a change of calcium balance (p = 0.38; power = 94%). There was no relationship between a change of NAE and a change in the marker of bone metabolism, N-telopeptides (p = 0.95). In conclusion, this meta-analysis does not support the concept that the calciuria associated with higher NAE reflects a net loss of whole body calcium. There is no evidence from superior quality balance studies that increasing the diet acid load promotes skeletal bone mineral loss or osteoporosis. Changes of urine calcium do not accurately represent calcium balance. Promotion of the ''alkaline diet'' to prevent calcium loss is not justified.
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