Alkali supplementation as a therapeutic in chronic kidney disease: What mediates protection?

Elinor C. Mannon, Paul M. O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) has been recognized as a possible therapy to target chronic kidney disease (CKD) progression. Several small clinical trials have demonstrated that supplementation with NaHCO3 or other alkalizing agents slows renal functional decline in patients with CKD. While the benefits of NaHCO3 treatment have been thought to result from restoring pH homeostasis, a number of studies have now indicated that NaHCO3 or other alkalis may provide benefit regardless of the presence of metabolic acidosis. These data have raised questions as to how NaHCO3 protects the kidneys. To date, the physiological mechanism(s) that mediates the reported protective effect of NaHCO3 in CKD remain unclear. In this review, we first examine the evidence from clinical trials in support of a beneficial effect of NaHCO3 and other alkali in slowing kidney disease progression and their relationship to acid-base status. Then, we discuss the physiological pathways that have been proposed to underlie these renoprotective effects and highlight strengths and weaknesses in the data supporting each pathway. Finally, we discuss how answering key questions regarding the physiological mechanism(s) mediating the beneficial actions of NaHCO3 therapy in CKD is likely to be important in the design of future clinical trials. We conclude that basic research in animal models is likely to be critical in identifying the physiological mechanisms underlying the benefits of NaHCO3 treatment in CKD. Gaining an understanding of these pathways may lead to the improved implementation of NaHCO3 as a therapy in CKD and perhaps other disease states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)F1090-F1104
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 14 2020


  • Bicarbonate
  • Blood glucose
  • Cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway
  • Clinical trial
  • Complement
  • Glomerular filtration rate
  • Metabolic acidosis
  • PH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Urology


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