Hollywood loves this diet. Otherwise known as the alkaline ash diet or alkaline acid diet – it is claimed that it can help you lose weight and avoid conditions like arthritis and cancer. The theory is that some foods, like meat, wheat, refined sugar, and processed foods, cause your body to produce acid, which is bad for you. Is there truth to this?

Theoretical Basis

A pH level measures how acid or alkaline something is. A pH of 0 is completely acidic, while a pH of 14 is completely alkaline. A pH of 7 is neutral. Those levels vary throughout your body. Your blood is slightly alkaline, with a pH between 7.35 and 7.45. Your stomach is very acidic, with a pH of 3.5 or below, so it can break down food. Your urine changes, depending on what you eat – that’s how your body keeps the level in your blood steady. The alkaline diet claims to help your body maintain its blood pH level. Proponents of the alkaline diet claim that when eating foods that lead the body to produce acids, such as meat, dairy and refined sugars, the mineral stores in our bones can become depleted and lead to illness.

Does This Make Sense?

In a Petri dish, cancer cells have been shown to multiply more in an acidic environment. But that can’t be extrapolated  to the body. Our bodies don’t need help to do that. Moreover, the digestive system treats all foods the same way. Nothing you eat is going to substantially change the pH of your blood – your body works to keep that level constant.

Should I Follow This Diet?

The foods you are supposed to eat on the alkaline diet are good for you: lots of fruits, vegetables and lots of water. Avoiding sugar, alcohol, and processed foods is healthy weight-loss advice, too. Dairy, eggs, meat, most grains, and processed foods, like canned and packaged snacks and convenience foods, fall on the acid side and are not allowed on this diet. However it is important to recognize the faults in this diet. This diet could potentially hurt some high risk patients, such as cancer patients, by putting them at risk of malnutrition. Some of the healthy foods that this diet limits are things like mushrooms, tropical fruits and berries. I would encourage people to pick the foods that they eat based on the nutrition in them, rather than looking at every single item and questioning “is it acid, is it alkaline?”

Bottom Line

The science basis for this diet is flawed and can’t be applied to the human body. The diet does promote some healthy eating patterns, however choose foods based on nutrition vs their pH level.

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