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Food and health

Effect of diet composition on acid–base balance in adolescents, young adults and elderly at rest and during exercise



Diets rich in animal protein and cereal grains and deficient in vegetables and fruits may cause low-grade metabolic acidosis, which may impact exercise and health. We hypothesized that (1) a normal-protein diet with high amount of vegetables and fruits (HV) induces more alkaline acid–base balance compared with a high-protein diet with no vegetables and fruits (HP) and (2) diet composition has a greater impact on acid–base balance in the elderly (ELD).


In all, 12–15 (adolescents (ADO)), 25–35 (young adults (YAD)) and 60–75 (ELD)-year-old male and female subjects (n=88) followed a 7-day HV and a 7-day HP in a randomized order and at the end performed incremental cycle ergometer tests. We investigated the effect of diet composition and age on capillary (c-pH) and urine pH (u-pH), strong ion difference (SID), partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) and total concentration of weak acids (Atot). Linear regression analysis was used to examine the contribution of SID, pCO2 and Atot to c-pH.


In YAD and ELD, c-pH (P0.038) and u-pH (P<0.001) were higher at rest after HV compared with HP. During cycling, c-pH was higher (P0.034) after HV compared with HP at submaximal workloads in YAD and at 75% of VO2max (maximal oxygen consumption) in ELD. The contribution of SID, pCO2 and Atot to c-pH varied widely. Gender effects or changes in acid–base balance of ADO were not detected.


A high intake of vegetables and fruits increases blood and u-pH in YAD and ELD. ELD compared with younger persons may be more sensitive for the diet-induced acid–base changes.

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We thank TEKES (Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation), Honkatarhat Ltd, Kyröntarhat Ltd, Mykora Ltd, Lihajaloste Korpela Ltd, Laihian Mallas Ltd and KKK-Vihannes Ltd/Lykobene for providing financial support to the study. We also thank Tanja Laine, Johanna Stenholm, Elina Vaara, Hanna Minkkinen, Susanna Karvinen and Riikka Lamminen for all the assistance in establishing this study.

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Correspondence to E-M Hietavala.

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HP has a commercial association with Honkatarhat Ltd, Kyröntarhat Ltd and Mykora Ltd. He accepts full responsibility for the implementation and publication of this study. He also had full access to all the data. The remaining authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Supplementary Information accompanies this paper on European Journal of Clinical Nutrition website

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Hietavala, EM., Stout, J., Hulmi, J. et al. Effect of diet composition on acid–base balance in adolescents, young adults and elderly at rest and during exercise. Eur J Clin Nutr 69, 399–404 (2015).

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