Alkaline Diet

Posted 15 February 2013

At www.simplygreen.co.za, the alkaline diet is promoted “for Better Body Chemistry, PH Levels, and Overall Health”. The author writes: “Going to a body and nutrition expert with my husband is one of the best things we’ve done for ourselves. What was the key take away? Warning! Turn Alkaline!”

Is there any evidence that this diet is beneficial?

The Consumers Union of the USA published a report concluding that “alkaline products promise health benefits with little proof to support such claims”.

Read on….

Alkaline products promise health benefits with little proof to support such claims

By Consumers Union of United States,

Published: February 11: Washington Post
Lose a pound a day! Relieve your indigestion! Look younger! Cure cancer!

Scour the Internet and you’ll see a slew of Web sites promising to improve your health if only you follow their alkaline diet, drink alkaline water or buy a water ionizer to get it from your tap. But the evidence supporting any of the health claims for alkaline products is murky at best. Here’s what you need to know about this health fad.

The claim

The main idea put forth by marketers of alkaline products is that many people have an imbalance of acid in their body because of what they claim are acid-producing foods such as meat and processed goods. Raising our alkaline levels to neutralize that acid will foster better health, the argument goes. Some alkaline products feature a number of health claims, including greater weight loss, slowing down aging and preventing such diseases as cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis.

Measured on the pH (power of hydrogen) scale, a substance is considered alkaline if it has a pH above 7, acidic if it has a pH below that, and neutral when it is exactly at 7. For example, distilled water has a pH of 7, lemon juice is measured at about 2, and baking soda is about 9.

The reality

“The modern diet does produce slightly acidic urine,” says Tanis Fenton, a registered dietitian, epidemiologist and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Calgary in Alberta. Some researchers speculate that compared with early humans, our diets are more acid-producing as well as richer in saturated fat, simple sugars, sodium and chloride, and lower in magnesium and potassium. But even with a high acid load, Fenton says, research shows that the body does not become acidic. “Rather, the urine becomes acidic,” she says, “showing that kidneys are effective at excreting the acid.”

The human body has a range of pH values that span a full spectrum of levels, roughly from 2 to 8. The idea that you need to neutralize acid in your body by regulating your pH level – and that you should drink alkaline water to do so – is “not based on credible science,” says Joy Dubost, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “The body can maintain the proper pH independent of diet,” she adds. And drinking alkaline water will do no more than wet your whistle, since water’s pH has no effect on the blood or the body’s cells, Dubost says.

For her doctoral work, Fenton was on a team that reviewed 238 studies for evidence linking an alkaline diet to bone health. Its findings, published in 2011 in the Nutrition Journal, concluded that there was no evidence that an alkaline diet improves bone health. Another study by Fenton and a colleague – a systematic review, not yet published, of the effects of an alkaline diet on cancer – found no benefits in the prevention or treatment of that disease.

The products

There are many ways that alkaline water and alkaline-style diets are marketed to consumers. Some health-food stores carry the water, and alkaline-ionized bottled water is sold online. Do-it-yourself water ionizer machines, which claim to convert tap water into alkaline water, are also sold online. The devices can cost several hundred dollars to more than $1,000.

There are also books about alkaline-rich diets, such as “The pH Miracle for Weight Loss: Balance Your Body Chemistry, Achieve Your Ideal Weight.” It emphasizes eating green vegetables and drinking alkaline water, and recommends taking supplements such as pH “drops,” according to a review by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The group concluded that the diet “is not a healthy way to lose weight.”

So far, the Food and Drug Administration has rejected certain health claims made by alkaline products. As for the diets, Dubost agrees with their emphasis on fruit and vegetables but cautions against restrictions on dairy and meat, which supply needed calcium, protein and Vitamin D.

She also warns that people who take medication for a major medical condition should consult a doctor before using alkaline products or starting an alkaline diet. That’s especially important for those who have kidney disease, because the phosphorus, potassium and sodium of alkaline products can build up to dangerous levels.

Bottom line

Drinking more water is a good idea for better health, but be wary of products that can suck your money down the drain.

14 Responses to Alkaline Diet

  1. Sarah Kalell 24 February, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    The point missed in this article is that an overly acid-forming diet (i.e. one that is high in refined foods and animal products) forces the body to work hard to maintain the blood at a slightly akaline level of between 7.35 to 7.45 on the pH scale. How does the body do this? It uses alkaline minerals such as calcium to neutralise the acidity. One of the end results of this process is osteoporosis! There is plenty of research and evidence that show that a diet that is highly acid-forming is detrimental to long-term health. Arthritis and heart disease are two other end results of such a diet as well as digestive problems. Dieticians who still tell people to consume dairy for their calcium needs are ignoring the fact that calcium is better absorbed from leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds. Dairy is acid forming and many people find they cannot tolerate dairy due to mucous build up. Evidence is plentiful that prove that dairy contributes to a net LOSS of calcium, due to its highly acid forming nature. Consuming dairy does NOT prevent or reverse osteoporosis. Dairy is also a source of hormones that are naturally present in cow’s milk PLUS if the cow has been treated with rBST, it will have ADDITIONAL hormones – all of which contributes to disrupting a human being’s endocrine (hormonal) system. People should also be aware that the best source of Vitamin D is sensible sun exposure, not food. Meat is also not the only source of protein!!! Vegetarians can get sufficient protein from nuts, seeds, pulses (legumes), quinoa, avocados, broccoli and other vegetables.

    Dried, wholefood supplements such as barley grass or wheat grass are extremely healthy – and alkaline forming. But they need to be part of an overall healthy eating plan which is 75% alkaline-forming and no more than 25% acid-forming. If people follow the general advice from most nutritionists then they will naturally find that their diet is more alkaline-forming because they will ditch the refined foods (acid-forming) in favour of raw fruits (alkaline-forming) and raw/lightly steamed vegetables (alkaline-forming). It is already widely accepted that we should not consume large quantities of meat (acid-forming) if we want to be healthy.

    So yes, the body doesn’t become acidic as it works hard to neutralise the effects of the acid-forming foods BUT it depletes the body of alkaline minerals in the process. There is also no doubt that changing your diet to be more alkaline-forming WILL allow you to lose weight because you naturally get rid of the acid-forming foods that make you retain weight.

    Alkaline products (you don’t mention what they are), unless they are wholefood products, are not recommended on The Natural Way because we don’t recommend refined or highly processed products/food.

    The bottom line is that a healthy diet is one that includes fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, plant-based protein (or minimal organic animal protein), balanced essential fats and clean water but no heated fats and no refined foods (i.e. no refined sugar or refined flour). Included in this lifestyle is sensible sun exposure for optimum Vitamin D levels, balanced cholesterol and hormone balance. Alcohol should be kept to an absolute minimum and of course, no smoking!

    The only supplements that I would advocate are Vit B12 (whether or not you are a meat-eater or vegetarian you are often at risk of low Vit B12, simply because the standard diet damages the ability to produce B12 in your gut – get your level tested) and Vit D3 in winter (but only if a blood test reveals you are low).

  2. Harris 24 February, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

    @Sarah Kalell
    You write: “There is plenty of research and evidence that show that a diet that is highly acid-forming is detrimental to long-term health.” Could you please supply scientific references to support your statement? (not internet sites promoting the Alkaline Diet but e.g., PubMed or other credible scientific resources).

    Until then I recommend readers to read your comments with caution for your opinion is contrary to scientifically known physiological principles.

    This, as with so many similar “explanations” of “acidity” totally ignores the vitally important respiratory component of pH regulation!

    For readers who wish to know how pH is regulated in the blood (body), I recommend the following (but basic) explanation:
    http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/kidney7.htm
    Although an “ordinary” website, the article is written by Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D., who has published over 10 articles in peer-reviewed literature: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Freudenrich%20C

    University sites that support this explanation can be found here:
    http://www.hartnell.edu/faculty/shovde/chem23/Body%20Fluids/Respiratory%20control%20pH.htm and here
    http://www.elu.sgul.ac.uk/rehash/guest/scorm/394/package/content/respiratory_regulation.html and this medical text book
    http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal_and_metabolic_disorders/acid-base_balance/overview_of_acid-base_balance.html

  3. Sarah Kalell 25 February, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    I think you are missing my point – of course the body buffers acid-forming foods and maintains the correct pH balance. I am not disputing that at all – that is accepted physiology. If the body did NOT do that, we would of course die.

    However, the point you are missing is what minerals the body uses in order to maintain the correct pH balance? The body uses alkaline minerals in its buffer system – calcium, potassium, magnesium – and so if the intake of alkaline minerals is insufficient, the body has to deplete it’s stores. Hence, calcium is retrieved from your bones and teeth.

    Does that help?

  4. Harris 25 February, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    @Sarah Kalell
    My point is explicit: In the great majority of individuals the body controls pH without depleting calcium, potassium or magnesium. Only those with moderately severe or greater underlying conditions are at risk. In fact, calcium concentrations are remarkably stable in healthy individuals because of the homeostatic system and a number of factors, including hormones, play a major role.

    It is rare for individuals eating a balanced diet to develop acid-base (pH) problems, unless they have a severe underlying condition.

    Osteoporosis is rarely the result of pH imbalance – indeed, experts believe that a combination of causes is often to blame for bone loss: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000360.htm

    Although not a scientific source of information, Wikipedia states for the Alkaline diet: “The term “alkaline diet” has also been used by alternative medicine practitioners, with the proposal that such diets treat or prevent cancer, heart disease, low energy levels as well as other illnesses. These claims are not supported by medical evidence and make assumptions about how alkaline diets function, contrary to current understandings of human physiology.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alkaline_diet)

    “Because the alkaline diet promotes excluding certain families of foods, it could result in a less-balanced diet with resulting nutrient deficiencies such as essential fatty acids, phytonutrients, as well as protein and calcium.”

    I continue to request scientific evidence to support your belief.

  5. Sarah Kalell 25 February, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    My belief is pretty much as you have described:

    “In the great majority of individuals the body controls pH without depleting calcium, potassium or magnesium. Only those with moderately severe or greater underlying conditions are at risk. In fact, calcium concentrations are remarkably stable in healthy individuals because of the homeostatic system and a number of factors, including hormones, play a major role.

    It is rare for individuals eating a balanced diet to develop acid-base (pH) problems, unless they have a severe underlying condition”.

    I think you are possibly misinterpreting my comments. I am not an advocate of a totally alkaline diet, not at all. As I said in my initial comment, The Natural Way is 75% alkaline and 25% acid forming. This is in line with most nutritionists who advocate a proper balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, no refined foods and moderate animal foods. However, your reference to a ‘balanced diet’ is where most people fall down – what is a balanced diet? Most people these days DON’T have a healthy, balanced diet. Their intake is extremely high in unhealthy food – which is usually highly acid-forming. Any nutritionist or dietician worth their reputation will recommend that people avoid all refined sugar and refined flour – these are well-known to cause health problems. And they are acid-forming! Why do I need to provide scientific proof that a diet which contains a large amount of acid-forming ‘foods’ is detrimental to our health?! We all KNOW that! We all KNOW that a diet which contains a large amount of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables is healthy for us – and these are alkaline-forming!

    My belief, and that of even mainstream nutrition, is that a diet which is high in refined sugar, refined flour, heated fats, alcohol, processed meats and which is low in fruits, vegetables and raw essential fats is unhealthy. Surely you agree with me on this?

  6. Harris 25 February, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    @Sarah Kalell
    I agree with your last paragraph. This is not the same as “The Natural Way” nor the alkaline diet. In support of your last paragraph there is a large body of evidence. For the “The Natural Way” nor the alkaline diet, nothing. Consumers have the right to choose between reasonably well proven evidence versus in essence, thumb suck. That is simply what I am trying to put across.

  7. Sarah Kalell 26 February, 2013 at 8:23 am #

    I really don’t understand what you are trying to say. You agree with my last paragraph yet you choose to say there is ‘no evidence’ that The Natural Way is healthy! Yet The Natural Way is advocating natural food which mainstream science says is healthy! There is no mystery to The Natural Way – it is not some crazy, obscure, extreme type of eating plan. Why on earth do you need some scientific paper that says it is healthy?! We don’t advocate anything other than unrefined, unprocessed, wholefoods or organic dried foods (such as barley grass). We combine this with healthy exercise and sensible sun exposure. If consumers choose to ignore the premise that natural wholefoods are healthy, then that is their prerogative. We certainly don’t need a scientist to tell us that apples and broccoli are healthy but the fact is that they have!

    I agree with your sentiments about the alkaline diet where they push products that might be of dubious benefit. I personally ignore these fads where they promote extreme doctrines.

    But to reject The Natural Way because there is ‘no scientific evidence’ that it is healthy is just ludicrous! That’s like saying “I’m not going to eat fresh fruit and vegetables because there is no scientific evidence to say that I should”.

    If you do want some evidence of how healthy a plant-based, wholefood diet is, then look at the biggest epidemiological study ever done, read The China Study by Prof Colin Campbell.

    Consumers need to be aware that so-called independent scientific studies are often flawed and biased. Industry sponsored studies (which The China Study is not) cannot be trusted these days so if you are looking for definite proof of something you need to dig deep. Natural diets are not often studied because there is no money in it for food producers or pharmaceutical companies.

    What consumers also need to understand is that there is no magic potion that will make them healthy or make them lose weight quickly and healthily. Consistent healthy eating will make people healthy – and this will naturally give them a healthy weight. But again I come back to the definition of what is healthy? Man-made rubbish is NOT healthy! Unrefined Nature’s food IS healthy!

  8. Harris 26 February, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    @Sarah Kalell
    I need to apologise for assuming The Natural Way is synonymous with the alkaline diet. It appears not to be.

    Disclosure: Sarah has a vested interest in promoting “The Natural Way” – she is a consultant. “The Natural Way” is based on the beliefs of Mary-Ann Shearer who is not a qualified nutritionist and bases her beliefs on her own “research.” Mary-Ann Shearer claims: “More alkaline-forming diet. The more alkaline your diet the less heart disease, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes – less of any disease.” (http://www.naturalwaynetwork.net/?page_id=415)

  9. Sarah Kalell 26 February, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    Thank you, no, the Natural Way is not synonymous with the alkaline diet. Even though we promote a diet that IS more alkaline-forming that the standard Western diet, that is because we promote eating fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. And therefore, it is TRUE that this lessens the risk of lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis etc.

    I disclosed on the submission for these comments my web site so that you could look up my credentials. But this was not the point of the series of comments – it was to point out that a healthy diet is naturally mostly alkaline-forming (because of the fruits and vegetables), whereas a disease-promoting diet is mostly acid-forming (because of refined foods, heated fats etc).

    The Natural Way is not Mary-Ann Shearer’s beliefs – it is based on Natural Hygiene – references can be found to Dr Herbert Shelton, who wrote the ‘bible’ of Natural Hygiene “Human Life, its Philosophy and Practices of Orthopathy”.

    Mary-Ann’s record speaks for itself in that over 30 years she has helped thousands upon thousands of people to regain their health through a natural lifestyle.

    I have a vested interest in The Natural Way only in that I know it works. I do not sell products and I do not consult to make a living. I promote The Natural Way because it is health-promoting.

    Consumers need to decide what they want in terms of their health. If they value their health then they must look at what nature intended for us. If they don’t value their health and would rather opt for the standard “Western” diet, then that is their choice.

    But don’t discount someone just because they don’t have conventional ‘qualifications’. Look at their track record and success.

    The medical world and pharmaceutical industry is not there to promote your optimum health – they are disease care/management. They don’t cure lifestyle ‘diseases’. Modern medicine is brilliant when it comes to advances in surgery, emergency care etc but when it comes down to everyday complaints such as digestive problems, diabetes, cancer etc., they simply promote drugs and toxic substances because that is what they are trained to do.

    As a prime example, go to a doctor with high LDL and he’ll put you on statins with all the accompanying side effects. And it won’t cure the underlying problem. Instead, look at what natural nutrition advocates and you’ll be able to balance your cholesterol through diet and exercise and sunshine – without toxic side effects!

    Statins are probably going to turn out to be (if not already) the single largest scam in medical history.

    It is up to each one of us to take responsibility for our day to day health and to look at ways in which we can look after ourselves through nutrition and healthy living. There are some doctors who can help with this, but they are sadly few and far between.

    That’s why Mary-Ann turned to Natural Hygiene because the doctors were not helping her! Read her book and you’ll find out more about why this is a serious study of nutrition with sound science and research, not just someone’s “beliefs”.

  10. Harris 26 February, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    For readers interested in reading more on Dr Herbert Shelton, Wikipedia gives a brief overview: “Herbert Macgolfin Shelton, N.D., (October 6, 1895 – January 1, 1985) was an American unlicensed doctor, alternative medicine advocate, author, pacifist, vegetarian, supporter of rawism and fasting. Shelton was nominated by the American Vegetarian Party to run as its candidate for President of the United States in 1956.” Continue reading at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_M._Shelton

  11. Roy 27 February, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    This has been an interesting discussion. I want to comment on Mary-Ann Shearer and her book (mission?) “The Natural Way.”

    She has made much, in the past, of the research she has personally done. I’d like to point out that before the “naturalwaynetwork” website came into existence, there was one named: “www.mary-anns.com” and on this was a webpage: “Aids the natural way.” This webpage is no longer available. She made the following statements on it.

    “There are thousands of people in the modern world, and perhaps
    millions in third world countries, who are thought to have AIDS simply because they “test positive” for the feared and supposedly deadly retrovirus called HIV. Most of these people are in average health, not displaying the sickness of the syndrome, which is AIDS. So how on earth can someone without a syndrome be said to have the syndrome (A syndrome being a condition or state of health)? AIDS is a syndrome, and if you don’t have the syndrome you don’t have AIDS.”

    “Moreover, even if it were true that HIV was the cause of AIDS, and this has *never been more than supposition* as will be shown, the fact that antibodies to the virus are detectable in someone’s blood does not mean they harbour the virus at all;. . .” (my emphasis)

    “That some of these HIV positive people, particularly those in the high-risk category (those busy destroying themselves), will eventually display AIDS is only to be expected, but that does not prove anything other than that their high-risk behaviour is responsible, because it is a fact that even in the high-risk group, less than three per cent of “AIDS-antibody positive” people have proceeded to develop “full blown” AIDS.”

    [Note: there is no “AIDS antibody.”]

    “There has been a great deal of confusion among doctors as to how to diagnose AIDS. This is no wonder, when it is considered that most of the information on the subject released by the so-called AIDS establishment is *based on pure supposition*. A virus is supposed to be the cause, but can hardly ever be found; antibodies to the virus can be found in most cases but not in all cases. People with the antibodies mostly don’t get sick, while some without antibodies do. So, setting aside the theory of the virus as more or less irrelevant, . . . Again it must be made clear that the mere trace of a suspected viral infection (HIV or any other virus) does not constitute AIDS, nor does it mean that AIDS will develop.” (my emphasis)

    “Children with real AIDS are born with defective immune systems, usually of mothers who are, or have been, drug addicts. It now appears that the majority of children that test positive at birth, test negatively within a few months or years. This must indicate that the condition is reversible.”

    [Note: In many children who test positively at birth, the test measures maternal antibodies that have crossed the placenta during pregnancy. Once these are no longer present and the baby tests antibody negative does not mean the condition (AIDS) is reversible!]

    “As for the African epidemic, [Peter Duesberg and John Yiamouyiannis] propose, it is the consequence of malnutrition, parasitic infections, and poor sanitation due to a rapidly growing population and a declining food supply. Some researchers claim that the regular use of marijuana by African people eventually destroys the Immune System . . . In South Africa for example the highest incidence of HIV Positive people is in Kwazulu Natal and the highest users of marijuana is also in Kwazulu Natal.”

    Why would Mary-Ann Shearer quote discredited AIDS denialists? Is she herself one?

  12. Sarah Kalell 4 March, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    What is an ‘AIDS denialist’? Someone who questions the official information? Who ‘discredits’ the scientists? What agenda do the people have who do the discrediting? What is wrong with asking questions and querying what we are told? Where there are irregularities or inconsistencies in the information we are fed, are we not entitled to query this? Why is the official information (or perhaps ‘propaganda’ could be used?) correct? What is wrong with going against convention? Are governments always right? Are scientists always right?

    What is for sure is that we are fed an enormous amount of propaganda from various sources – governments, Big Pharma, the media – we are entitled to query anything that we are told and we are entitled to have opinions. Whether or not those opinions are correct is another matter. Why should someone be discredited because they think differently from others?

    If more people used their brains these days, instead of just swallowing the official party lines and the garbage we get fed by the biased media, we would be a far better world.

  13. Harris 4 March, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    @Sarah
    It is one thing to question “official information” or to query convention. It is another to be a denialist:

    “HIV/AIDS denialism is the view held by a loosely connected group of people and organizations who deny that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the cause of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Some denialists reject the existence of HIV, while others accept that HIV exists but say that it is a harmless passenger virus and not the cause of AIDS.” (http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/AIDS+Denialism) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV/AIDS_denialism)

  14. Sarah Kalell 4 March, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    I see no difference. The term ‘denialist’ has been invented to discredit those who hold opposing views. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and it is up to each individual to do their own research to determine what they believe. There is no doubt that some people have AIDS but who are not HIV positive – how does conventional medicine explain that?

    But still, the fact is that everyone is entitled to their opinion. The more that people question, the better our world will be. Not enough people question the official stories that we are fed.

    ‘Denialism’ is merely another form of opinion. Those who discredit ‘denialism’ are those who also have an opinion but who also deny others the right to have an opinion.

    Those who discredit others are those who will probably say “I believe in freedom of speech but as long as you agree with what I say”.

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