Low-grade metabolic acidosis, consecutive to excessive catabolism of sulfur amino acids and a high dietary Na:K ratio, is a common feature of Western food habits. This metabolic alteration may exert various adverse physiological effects, especially on bone, muscle and kidneys. To assess the actual effects of various K salts, a model of the Westernised diet has been developed in rats: slight protein excess (20 % casein); cations provided as non-alkalinising salts; high Na:K ratio. This diet resulted in acidic urine (pH 5·5) together with a high rate of divalent cation excretion in urine, especially Mg. Compared with controls, K supplementation as KCl accentuated Ca excretion, whereas potassium bicarbonate or malate reduced Mg and Ca excretion and alkalinised urine pH (up to 8). In parallel, citraturia was strongly increased, together with 2-ketoglutarate excretion, by potassium bicarbonate or malate in the diet. Basal sulfate excretion, in the range of 1 mmol/d, was slightly enhanced in rats fed the potassium malate diet. The present model of low-grade metabolic acidosis indicates that potassium malate may be as effective as KHCO3 to counteract urine acidification, to limit divalent cation excretion and to ensure high citrate concentration in urine.