Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

University of Sheffield, UK, 10–12 July 2001

Nutrition Society Medal Lecture: The role of the skeleton in acid—base homeostasis

Susan A. Newa1 c1

a1 Centre for Nutrition and Food Safety, School of Biomedical & Life Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 7XH, UK

Abstract

Nutritional strategies for optimising bone health throughout the life cycle are extremely important, since a dietary approach is more popular amongst osteoporosis sufferers than drug intervention, and long-term drug treatment compliance is relatively poor. As an exogenous factor, nutrition is amenable to change and has relevant public health implications. With the growing increase in life expectancy, hip fractures are predicted to rise dramatically in the next decade, and hence there is an urgent need for the implementation of public health strategies to target prevention of poor skeletal health on a population-wide basis. The role that the skeleton plays in acid-base homeostasis has been gaining increasing prominence in the literature; with theoretical considerations of the role alkaline bone mineral may play in the defence against acidosis dating as far back as the late 19th century. Natural, pathological and experimental states of acid loading and/or acidosis have been associated with hypercalciuria and negative Ca balance and, more recently, the detrimental effects of ‘acid’ from the diet on bone mineral have been demonstrated. At the cellular level, a reduction in extracellular pH has been shown to have a direct enhancement on osteoclastic activity, with the result of increased resorption pit formation in bone. A number of observational, experimental, clinical and intervention studies over the last decade have suggested a positive link between fruit and vegetable consumption and the skeleton. Further research is required, particularly with regard to the influence of dietary manipulation using alkali-forming foods on fracture prevention. Should the findings prove conclusive, a “fruit and vegetable” approach to bone health maintenance may provide a very sensible (and natural) alternative therapy for osteoporosis treatment, which is likely to have numerous additional health-related benefits.

Correspondence:

c1 Dr Susan New, fax +44 1483 576978, email s.new@surrey.ac.uk