Does alkaline diet work

Does alkaline diet really work?

Pawel Malczewski
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Short summary

The alkaline diet is actually a healthy diet. However, its benefits have nothing to do with what it claims. The inclusion of healthy, fresh and whole foods and the restriction of processed and unhealthy foods is what actually makes this diet healthy. For a quick answer click here.

Explanation

As with many nutrition myths, there is a core myth which is related to other myths.

In this case, it started with the acid-ash hypothesis, followed by a chain reaction, beginning with the benefits of the alkaline diet and continuing with other supporting theories to make the initial myth sound like a fact. This myth article resolves two related subjects: the acid –ash hypothesis and, based on it, the concept of an alkaline diet.

The alkaline diet consists mainly of natural and fresh food, mostly of plant origin. This diet categorically excludes any processed or fried foods, including flour based products, processed meat products or products with added sugar.

Any diet with similar characteristics will have a positive effect on health.

However, the actual claims made by the alkaline diet supporters about the advantages of this diet such as being protective against cancers, bone loss and promoting overall health are not backed up by science. Contrary to what is advocated by its supporters, there are no good quality studies showing that the level of acidity of the ash in foods has an impact on health.

The following are the most common supporting myths and misconceptions formed around the subject. Since there are a considerable number of related claims, I am only going to focus on the most important and common ones that seem to form the basis of this diet:

  1. Was our ancestors’ diet really predominantly alkaline? And, therefore, are the modern day diseases a result of an acid-ash diet?
  2. Acid-forming or base-forming foods affect only the urine pH and not the blood pH.
  3. Urine pH does not measure the body alkaline balance (body pH).
  4. In normal circumstances, bones don’t regulate blood pH, kidneys do.
  5. Acid-forming foods do not cause osteoporosis.
  6. Acid-forming foods do not cause cancer.
  7. Acidic foods are not the same as acid-forming foods and have nothing to do with urine pH.

The following are the responses to these points:

  1. Was our ancestors’ diet really predominantly alkaline? And, therefore, are the modern day diseases a result of an acid-ash diet?
    The most recent studies show that only about 50% of our ancestors were on an alkaline diet and 50% on an acid-ash diet. Since modern-day diseases were virtually not present in those times, it is logical to conclude that the acid-ash diet cannot be blamed for modern day diseases.
    Modern day diseases are more likely a result of a combination of factors, such as lack of activity, smoking, pollution, processed foods, pesticides, pollution, drugs or chronic stress. (read more..)
  2. Acid-forming or base-forming foods affect only urine pH and not the blood pH.
    Acid-forming foods or base-forming foods only change the urine pH. Blood pH remains unchanged thanks to a system of buffering inside the body. One of the buffering factors, the kidneys, makes the urine change its pH. (read more..)
  3. Urine pH does not measure the body alkaline balance (body pH).
    A common confusion among the alkaline diet enthusiasts is that when urine pH tests come out to be acidic, then it is assumed that the body has an acidic environment. This is not correct.
    Urine pH measures the net ash that is excreted by the body. Blood pH test measures the alkaline body balance. Urine and blood pH tests are not the same and measure two different things. (read more..)
  4. In normal circumstances, bones don’t regulate blood pH, kidneys do.
    There are a number of buffering systems to balance the blood pH. Bones do not release calcium as a result of consuming net acid-producing foods.
    There are other buffering systems that take care of that before calcium gets released from the bones.
    The calcium release from bones occurs when there is a large drop in blood acidity caused by serious medical issues rather than our diet. (read more..)
  5. Acid-forming foods do not cause osteoporosis.
    Osteoporosis may be caused by a diet low in calcium rather than by a diet high in protein, which are acid forming. It has been shown that a net acid-producing food diet causes mineral bone loss only if the calcium intake is below the recommended amount.
    A diet rich in calcium and proteins has proven to be optimal for bone health. (read more..)
    A good example of foods popularly considered as acid-forming, that are protective against osteoporosis is milk and dairy products. (read more..)
  6. Acid-forming foods do not cause cancer.
    Acid-forming foods do not change the blood or the extracellular fluid pH. The acidic micro-environment in which the cancer thrives is created by the cancer’s cells as a result of the rapid cell multiplications and, consequently, the need for more glucose.Whether fresh vegetables and fruits protect the body from the cancer cells proliferation is another matter. The myth relates to the specific claim that cancer’s preferred acid environment results from the diet. (read more..)

  7. Acidic foods are not the same as acid-forming foods and have nothing to do with urine pH.
    Acidic foods are those foods that have a pH measure in their original state, before consumption. Acid-forming foods are those that contain net acid-forming minerals.
    They make the urine pH more acidic, but not the blood pH. Acidic foods may be base-forming (e.g. lemon) with no impact on the acidity of the urine or blood. (read more..)

Conclusion

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Alkaline diet’s core claims are not backed up by scientific evidence, but rather disproven by good quality studies. At the same time the diet coincidentally promotes healthy fresh foods and excludes unhealthy processed foods that are known to cause many health issues.
You can follow this diet if you wish, but not for the reasons that it became famous for.