PMID: 2835Feb 1, 1976

The role of potassium in the control of ammonium excretion during starvation

Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental
D G SapirJ W Ryan


Administration of KC1 0.5 mmol/kg/day to subjects undergoin prolonged starvation reduced daily urinary ammonium and beta-hydroxybutyrate excretion by one-third. These changes were accompanied by an improvement in potassium balance and an increased rate of chloride excretion. A similar fall in ammonium excretion occurred in a second group of subjects after administration of KHCO3 0.5 mmol/kg/day. Ketone body and bicarbonate excretion remained unchanged in this group while potassium balance improved. In both the first and second groups urine pH fell significantly as the rate of excretion of urinary buffer (ammonium) decreased. When the dose of KHCO3 was increased to 1.5-2.0 mmol/kg/day in fasting subjects, the urine was alkalinized, and ammonium excretion fell to negligible levels, resulting in nitrogen sparing of 2.0 g/day. The results indicate that one-half of the increase in ammonium excretion observed in starvation is due to potassium deficiency. Nitrogen wastage caused by losses of urinary ammonium during starvation can be virtually eliminated by potassium supplementation and urinary alkalinization. The decrease in beta-hydroxybutyrate excretion after potassium chloride administration was not caused by a fall in the rate of ...Continue Reading


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