There are many claims when it comes to using diet to control the pH of your body. Some people claim it aids in weight loss, controlling inflammation and curing cancer.
One website claims that following regarding this diet:
- “Say good-bye to low energy, poor digestion, extra pounds, aches and pains, and disease.”
- “Say hello to renewed vigor, mental clarity, better over-all health, and a lean trim body. The key? Your health depends on the pH balance of the blood.”
Plus, there are celebrities who say that the diets work… and we all know that celebrities know everything!
Comments from Readers:
I thought I’d get some feedback from my readers on my facebook page. Here’s the responses I got:
- “can’t recall anything in oncology…just urology: to prevent kidney stones”
- “I don’t have cancer. I have been using food combining for pH for three years. It has made a difference in my IBS symptoms and has helped me lose (and keep off) 55 lbs. I’ll be interested in reading your article.”
- “Amazing things!!! “The Crazy Sexy Cancer Diet” by Kris Carr is an amazing book. Kris is an 8 year stage four liver cancer survivor. I am living with metastatic cervical cancer and I have slowly been changing my diet to more alkaline.”
- “I am excited to see your findings on this! I have heard so many different things concerning this subject! Thank you for your time in researching this for us! :)”
I also had a client tell me that a friend was trying to sell them “alkaline water” and that it’s better than regular tap water.
It seems that there are a lot of people making claims, but what’s the evidence say?
I think the primary difficulty in concluding that this diet works to manage pH in the body is that there are many different body fluids that could measure pH. I’ve had a dentist tell me to measure the pH of my saliva. Then, of course you could measure your blood or your urine.
According to Dina Aronson, MS, RD, (owner of Welltech Solutions, a nutrition and technology consulting company) in this ‘Ask the Expert’ column by Today’s Dietitian, “ large, well-designed clinical trials on the effectiveness of the alkaline diet for general health are lacking”.
There is consensus among experts that blood
pH is regulated to stay within the narrow range of 7.35 to 7.45, making
it slightly alkaline. According to this article (update: source no longer available online), Associate professor in nutrition and health education at the University of Sydney, Dr Jennifer O’Dea says ”The acidity or alkalinity of the human body is maintained within very tight control by the stomach acid, gall bladder, liver and kidneys – any rise or fall in acidity or alkalinity is quickly managed,” Dr O’Dea says. ”The idea that food can be acid or alkaline is irrelevant because the stomach acid regulates this.”
The same article quotes a dietitian who says: ‘I can’t think of any reason why you should eat alkaline foods and eliminate acidic foods. It will mean people miss out on essential nutrients such as calcium, iron and zinc, which are really important. It would be dangerous to try to do this diet long term because of those nutritional deficiencies.”
However, an article published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association used a calculation model to indicate the extent to which different foods affect urine acidity. According to Aronson, “studies suggest that when we indulge in an excess of acid-forming foods, the body works harder to neutralize the pH, mainly by releasing alkalizing minerals into the blood to buffer the acid. When the diet is low in these critical minerals, they must instead come from their biggest storage depot: bone.”
That’s not really what we want!
What Should I Do?
Although there doesn’t seem to be a lot of evidence to support this diet, I think there are some good take home messages that we can get from it. In my next post, I’ll cover the various foods that are alkaline vs. acid forming, and what parts of the diet might be worth following.
Of course, that choice is always something that you have to make for yourself and may be different for each of us!
Thanks for this post Julie. I have had a few patrons ask me if I have any info on this and I usualy spend way too much time looking for them. Can’t wait to see your food listing next time!
Pete Newman says
Hi Julie. I am a cancer survivor and the alkaline diet was very helpful – a very important piece of information is missing from this discussion: the pH of the food is not at all important. We know the body has a very effective process for maintaining the pH of the blood (homeostasis). The key is actually the PRAL score of the food. This is the ‘potential renal acid load’. For example lemons have a pH of around 3 – very acidic. However the PRAL score is -2.5 which is quite alkaline. In other words, the net effect of lemons is alkaline, which is due to the alkalising effect of the high mineral content of lemons. So when looking into the acid/alkaline diet you need to consider the PRAL score and work it from there.
There is a great deal of nonsense on this subject that can overwhelm some very valuable content. This makes it very easy to discredit the alkaline diet. However if you look at the USDA PRAL score list you will find that the alkaline foods are highly nutritious by default. There is also an argument that the alkaline diet work simply because the diet includes very nutritious foods to the exclusion of foods that are associated with cancer and poor health generally – so you win either way.