Indeed, the alkaline diet (also sometimes known as the acid-alkaline diet or the alkaline ash diet) is all the rage amongst celebrities.
Famous and fit-looking celebrities who swear by the alkaline diet include Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham and Elle Macpherson.
So what is the alkaline diet? Is it another celebrity fad diet or the latest in health and well being? This post will examine some of the facts and fiction behind the alkaline diet.
A little bit about PH
Before we can understand the theory behind the alkaline diet it is necessary to understand a little about the normal body ph.
Interestingly, and not many people know this, ph stands for ‘power of hydrogen’ but we are not going to go too far into that!
Basically, the ph range measures how acidic or alkaline your body is.
The ph scale ranges from 0 to 14:
- 0-7 is an acidic environment
- 7 is a neutral environment
- 7-14 is an alkaline environment
Interestingly, a healthy blood ph is slightly alkaline at around 7.4.
So, the idea behind the alkaline diet is to keep the body in an alkaline state. As shown above, that would be a ph level of 7 and above.
Acidity and Alkalinity in the Body
High Alkaline foods
Followers of the alkaline diet aim to eat foods that have a high alkaline balance. This is good news on a health level, as a lot of foods that are alkaline are very beneficial to well-being.
Here are some examples of highly alkaline foods:-
- Nearly all fruit and vegetables, especially lemons, apples and watermelon and root vegetables
- Alfalfa sprouts and leafy greens such as spinach and kale
Beans and peas
- Watercress, seaweed and asparagus
- Oils such as olive oil and coconut oil
- Fruit and vegetable juices and herbal teas such as green tea
- Most herbs and spices including garlic
- Alkaline Water: is sold in health food stores and has a much higher pH than normal water. There is some research that has shown that alkaline water can help with heartburn symptom, however, I’d be more tempted to go for normal water with freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Highly Acidic foods
The list below contains foods that have a high acid load, and as we can see, they are all quite a large part of the Western diet.
Whether or not the theory behind the alkaline diet is correct, reducing or eliminating some of the foods below from the diet has been proven in many medical studies to have health benefits.
However, it is not necessary, for example, to eliminate all meat and dairy, but simply cutting out some acidic foods such as refined sugars, processed foods and trans fats will be beneficial to health.
The main problem with the Alkaline diet Theory
The Alkaline diet and Weight Loss
Interestingly, you can search for ‘the alkaline diet and weight loss’ and you will find no medical research studies that support the specific claim that eating alkaline foods aids weight loss.
One of the drawbacks of the alkaline diet is that it does exclude foods that are rich in nutrients and known to benefit health, in moderate amounts, such as lean proteins like chicken and fish, dairy products, legumes and essential fats.
However, at the base of the alkaline diet is a reasonably healthy diet. Firstly, cutting out, or reducing, processed foods, alcohol, red meats, trans-fats and sugars is certainly going to help with weight loss and has numerous health benefits into the bargain.
Secondly, increasing the intake of healthy, fresh foods, such as fruit and vegetables and drinking plenty of water has been scientifically proven to aid weight loss and improve general health too.
In conclusion, you probably will lose pounds and be well on the way to a healthy body, on the alkaline diet because of a switch to healthier, fresher products rather than because of the underlying ‘alkaline theory’ itself.
The Alkaline Diet and Cancer Prevention
It has been well known and documented, that where there are cancer cells there is a low pH or an acidic environment.
Furthermore, cancer cells do not thrive in alkaline conditions.
Hence, the theory that limiting acidic foods and increasing alkaline ones will alter the blood pH level and prevent or stop cancer.
This is not strictly true as we have already discussed. The problem again is that eating acidic or alkaline foods has no effect on the pH of the blood.
Furthermore, it has been seen that cancers produce lactic acid and so it is actually the tumor that creates the acidic environment and not the acidic pH level that causes the tumor.
According to the main medical study on the health benefits of the alkaline diet, Schwalfenberg states,
“There is no scientific literature establishing the benefit of an alkaline diet for the prevention of cancer at this time”.
Osteoporosis and the Alkaline Diet
Dr Halls’ Conclusion
The main problem with the alkaline diet is that a lot of the health claims are very loosely based on science, but the overall premise of changing the blood acid-alkaline balance by foods is flawed.
As we have seen, there is very little scientific research to date, that supports the claims regarding cancer and bone health.
However, the alkaline diet is healthy in that it encourages an increased intake of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and plant-based foods, although it does exclude some healthy foods too.
Furthermore, the alkaline diet sticks to known solid scientific research because it promotes the reduction of unhealthy process food full of sugar and sodium.
All in all this diet is not going to do any harm to healthy people who are educated on the nutritional needs of the body.
In fact, I would go as far as to say the alkaline diet may lead to weight loss and improved health, but unfortunately, this has nothing to do with the acid alkaline balance of the body.
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- Schwalfenberg GK (2012) The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health? J Environ Public Health. 2012; 2012: 727630. (Retrieved December 4th 2016) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195546/
- Dawson-Hughes B, Harris SS, Ceglia L (2008) Alkaline diets favor lean tissue mass in older adults Am J Clin Nutr. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2008 Dec 8. (Retrieved December 4th 2016) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195546/