The official The Alkaline diet Review and answering the question does PH Balance actually help you lose weight and fight disease?
Lose weight, have more energy, look great, and fight disease! If you read gossip magazines or nutrition blogs, you’ve surely heard about the alkaline diet. It’s become a favourite amongst beautiful celebrities and has even inspired full lines of lucrative snacks and drinks.
But What is the Alkaline Diet Anyway?
The alkaline diet is based on a theory suggesting that eating certain foods will interfere with your body’s natural pH balance, making it more acidic. This acidic environment is bad for your health, and will make us more vulnerable to chronic disease, kidney stones, osteoporosis, arthritis, and even cancer. On the flip side, by eating foods that promote a more alkaline (and less acid) environment you apparently will just instantly lose weight and protect yourself from disease.
It sounds science-y right? And science-sounding stuff is always right, right? Let’s take a closer look.
First thing’s first: what is pH and how does it impact the Alkaline Diet?
Dust off those textbooks, folks, we’re heading back for a little Chemistry 101 (Gd help me!). Power of hydrogen (pH) is a scale between 0 and 14 used to measure how acidic or basic something is. A value of 7 is neutral and is the same as water. Values below 7 are considered acidic and above 7 are alkaline. The natural internal environment of our cells has a slightly alkaline pH of about 7.4.
Foods themselves have a pH range, too but proponents of the Alkaline Diet aren’t as concerned with the pH of food before you eat, but with the supposedly damaging ‘acid residue’ produced as certain foods are digested. This ‘acid residue’ is said to promote the creation of fat reserves, cause skin breakouts, and leach minerals from your bones and muscles, eventually causing arthritis, osteoporosis, chronic disease and cancer.
Okay… so what kind of food can I eat on the Alkaline Diet?
The Alkaline Diet cuts out all animal products including meat, dairy, and eggs. All processed foods are out, too. Different versions of the diet have different rules when it comes to grains, but most grains are not allowed either. The rationale for cutting these food specifically on the basis these foods will leave behind ‘acid residue’, putting stress on your internal environment in order to neutralize the acid, making you more susceptible to disease and weight gain, among other things. I hope you really like legumes, vegetables, fruits, and some nuts because they’re pretty much the only foods you get on the Alkaline Diet.
What does the science say?
You guys know that since I’m a dietitian I don’t “do” woo so let’s get real here. There are currently no scientific studies exist to back any of the claims of the Alkaline Diet (spoiler alert). The body’s innate ability to maintain its optimal internal environment (homeostasis) is actually very tightly regulated. Tightly regulating our internal environment is essential to our survival- if our cellular environment changed drastically every time we ate a snack, we would be in serious trouble. organs of our digestive tracts maintain certain environments to ensure proper digestion, absorption, and metabolism of nutrients. So while your stomach is an acidic environment, the cells themselves producing and releasing gastric acid are not, and are protected from this acid by mucus. Nothing you eat is going to change the internal pH of your cells once it begins to be digested! again- this is kind of a catchall- and would involve completely explaining the process of digestion and absorption and ultimately metabolism?
So what happens when I pee on the litmus paper?
One point of ‘evidence’ the Alkaline Diet suggests to support its claims is to monitor the pH of your urine. Peeing on a piece of litmus paper will turn red under acidic conditions and blue under alkaline conditions.
Urine pH does change with diet, and changes throughout the day, depending on how much and when you eat certain foods. Excess acidity is eliminated through your kidneys and that is reflected in your urine- but this has nothing to do with blood pH or the your cells. There isn’t enough solid evidence to suggests that pH of your urine is directly associated with an increase in chronic disease, osteoporosis, or cancer.
What about my bones?
Lots of studies (here and here) have been done in an attempt to prove that eating too much animal products may create an acidic environment resulting in a higher chance of osteoporosis. The theory suggests that these ‘acid-promoting’ foods cause minerals like calcium and magnesium to be leached from the bones in order to neutralize the environment, thereby reducing bone density. We actually went into great detail on that in this milk myth post here. While it has been shown that fruit and vegetable intake is associated with lower bone loss over four years, higher protein intake is associated with even less bone loss over the same time. Protein, like calcium and vitamin D, is an important building block in bone health.
The Bottom line?
Though the pseudo-science may not add up, there are health benefits to eating the plant-powered diet that is promoted by the Alkaline Diet. I’m all for encouraging people to eat more heart-healthy high-fibre, nutrient-dense foods like veggies, fruits, nuts, and legumes and removing highly processed foods.
However, as with any diet, cutting out certain foods (particularly if it’s whole food groups) and eating fewer calories will lead to weight loss so if this works, it’s not due to any magic acid-neutralizing powers. It’s because you’re eating fewer things, and maybe you’re also by default now eating fewer crappy things like fast food and booze. Is this a magic pill? Nope. Is this healthy? In my opinion, not necessarily- especially if you develop an obsession with restricting food (see my post on orthorexia here).
A better option is to simply cut back on some of the more processed foods in your diet, stretch your meals with lots of fresh veggies and plant-based protein and mindfully enjoy the rest.
Contribution by RD2B Kourtney Gordon