Serum anion gap, bicarbonate and biomarkers of inflammation in healthy individuals in a national survey

Farwell, Wildon R.; Taylor, Eric N.
February 2010
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;2/9/2010, Vol. 182 Issue 2, p137
Academic Journal
Background: In vitro data suggest that lower extracellular pH activates the immune system. We conducted a population- based study of the relation between serum acid-base status and inflammation. Methods: We examined the serum anion gap and serum levels of bicarbonate and inflammatory biomarkers in 4525 healthy adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey during 1999- 2006. We excluded participants who had chronic disease, recent infection and an estimated glomerular filtration rate of less than 60 mL/min per 1.73 m2. Results: The mean values of serum anion gap, bicarbonate level, leukocyte count and C-reactive protein level were all within normal limits. After adjustment for age, sex, ethnic background, body mass index, serum albumin level and other factors, we found that a higher anion gap and lower bicarbonate level were associated with a higher leukocyte count and higher C-reactive protein level. Compared with participants in the lowest quartile of anion gap, those in the highest quartile had a leukocyte count that was 1.0 x 109/L higher and a C-reactive protein level that was 10.9 nmol/L higher (p < 0.01). Compared with participants in the highest quartile of bicarbonate level, those in the lowest quartile had a leukocyte count that was 0.7 x 109/L higher and a C- reactive protein level that was 4.0 nmol/L higher (p ≥ 0.02). A higher anion gap and lower bicarbonate level were also associated with a higher platelet count, a larger mean platelet volume and a higher ferritin level. Interpretation: A higher serum anion gap and lower bicarbonate level were associated with higher levels of inflammatory biomarkers in a healthy sample of the general population. Further studies are needed to elucidate the relation between acid-base status and inflammation.


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