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October 30, 2015

By L. Carr,  Columnist

So you’ve read about this new diet and it promises weight
loss and even protection against chronic health conditions
and cancer – all by simply replacing acid-forming foods
with alkaline foods. This is the alkaline diet and it’s a hit
with celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow
and Elle Macpherson.

The idea is that some foods cause your body to produce
too much acid, which harms your health. Eating foods that
make your body more alkaline, on the other hand, helps
you to better health and a smaller waistline.

It sounds a bit too good to be true. And a quick look
online shows the amount of money you can spend on
supplements, cookbooks, courses, and equipment. Is it all
a bit of a con? Is it possible to be happy and healthy on
this diet? And most importantly, does it actually work?

What is the Alkaline Diet?

First of all it helps to cast your mind back to school and
remember those chemistry lessons. PH is a measure of
acidity. Something with a PH of below seven is acidic.
Anything with a PH above seven is alkaline. Seven is the
middle level; neither alkaline nor acidic, like water. Your
blood should remain slightly alkaline, according to
scientists, in order to sustain life.

The alkaline diet, otherwise known as the acid-alkaline diet
or alkaline ash diet, is based on the premise that some
foods like refined sugar, meat, and wheat cause an over-
production of acid.

When your body metabolizes food it is extracting energy
from the food by burning it (albeit in a very slow and
controlled way), and when the food burns it leaves behind
a residue of ash. This ash can be alkaline or acid. Acid ash
is thought to increase your risk of diseases like
osteoporosis and cancer. Cutting out the foods that leave
an acid ash and replacing them with foods that make your
body more alkaline is beneficial for your health, according
to fans of the diet.

When you follow the alkaline diet you are encouraged to
test your body’s PH value by measuring the PH of your
urine with special strips.

What Can You Eat on the Alkaline Diet?

The alkaline diet is pretty hard to follow as you’ll need to
remove a fair amount of acid-producing foods in order to
be successful. You can’t eat eggs, meat, dairy, most grains,
and all canned, convenience, and packaged foods.
and caffeine are also out.

On the other hand, most fruits and vegetables, tofu,
soybeans, some legumes, and some nuts and seeds, are all

Does The Food You Eat Really Affect Your Blood PH?

Since proponents of the diet hang their claims on how
certain foods can affect your blood PH, it is logical to ask –
can foods actually do this?

Look closely. If your blood PH were to fall outside the
normal range your cells would cease to function and you
would probably die.

Because of this extreme danger, your body
already has
protective measures in place to prevent it happening on a
daily basis and it is almost impossible for outside influences
to change the PH of your blood, for this reason.  

On the other hand, food can certainly change the PH value
of your urine as your body regulates blood PH through
urine. So if you test your urine and find it
alkaline, this has very little relation to the PH of your
blood. It doesn’t mean that your blood is alkaline to the
same extent.

Can the Alkaline Diet Protect Against Cancer, Osteoporosis
and Other Conditions?

Many people following the alkaline diet do so because they
believe that the body takes alkaline minerals like calcium
from the bones in order to counteract the high acid levels
in the blood.

This calcium-leaching means that you are more at risk of
suffering from
osteoporosis. But this theory actually
misses out one important factor – the kidneys.

According to a 2009 study from the University of
Connecticut, the kidneys actually work to produce ions
that neutralize this acid, meaning that there is no need for
the body to draw calcium ions from the bones.

Studies like the 2011 research from Harvard Medical
School and Boston University School of Public Health show
that there is no relationship between dietary acid and bone
density, or risk of fracture. So it would seem that the
alkaline diet cannot exert any positive or negative effect on
the possibility of osteoporosis.

Proponents of the diet also claim that cancer cells only
grow in an acidic environment and that the alkaline diet
can remove this risk factor.

But a 2012 study from the University of Arizona reviewed
current scientific literature and concluded that a link like
this could not be proven.

There is some evidence that eating a high-protein diet
increases your risk of kidney disease. In a 2014 study
from the University of Granada in Spain tests carried out
on rats reveal that a high-protein diet increases the risk of
kidney stones and ups the risk of other renal diseases.
Eating fruit and vegetables and drinking lots of water
lowers the risk of kidney stones.

Therefore the alkaline diet that minimizes consumption of
protein and maximizes vegetable intake could help with
kidney stones.

You also gain benefits when you follow the alkaline diet in
terms of heart health – the diet is very low in sodium,
which helps cut the risk of high blood pressure, heart
disease, and other chronic health conditions.

A 2012 study from the University of Alberta says "there
may be some value in considering an alkaline diet in
reducing morbidity and mortality from chronic diseases
and further studies are warranted in this area of medicine."

So Does the Alkaline Diet Actually Work?

It can. But not for the reasons it claims. Since the food you
eat cannot change your blood PH, there is no real scientific
evidence for a diet that claims health benefits from
alkaline- or acid-boosting foods. But the foods you eat on
the alkaline diet, if you follow it closely, will support weight
loss and you will probably drop pounds. Eating lots of fruit
and vegetables and cutting out sugar, processed foods
and alcohol will automatically cut calories and improve
your health.

So, the bottom line: Eating a diet based on low calorie, real
food and avoiding refined food products will help you lose
weight. But it has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with
the PH of your blood.

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An alkaline diet that emphasizes
vegetables and limits meat can help
prevent kidney stones.
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