The effect of uncomplicated potassium depletion on urine acidification

The Journal of Clinical Investigation
R L Tannen


Studies were performed on normal human subjects to determine the effects of potassium depletion on urine acidification. Depletion was induced by ingestion of a low potassium diet either alone or in combination with a potassium-binding resin, and the response of each subject to an acute ammonium chloride load in the potassium-depleted state was compared to his normal response. Urine pH was significantly higher during potassium deficiency if sufficient potassium depletion had been induced. No differences in blood acid-base parameters, urinary flow rate, or urinary fixed buffer excretion rate were found to account for this change; however, the increase in urine pH was accompanied by a concomitant increase in net acid and ammonium excretion. It is proposed that these changes during potassium depletion reflect an increase in ammonia diffusion into the urine, presumably as a result of increased renal ammonia production. In addition, it is speculated that changes in ammonia metabolism may be a physiologic control mechanism for potassium conservation.


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