(Diet Review) The Alkaline Diet – A Mockery Of Basic Physiology
The alkaline diet has been around forever, although I’m not entirely sure why. It was first popularized by Robert Young, who wrote The pH Miracle in 2010, and who is now facing jail time for practicing medicine without a licence.
Now, there are plenty of licenced doctors who promote dangerous and idiotic nutrition plans, but this guy was a real winner who actually killed a woman by injecting baking soda into her veins. Nice.
Anyhoo, lots of celebrities have promoted the alkaline diet, including Kate Hudson, Victoria Beckham, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Not exactly an honor roll list of legitimate diet advocates!
Reading bullshit like this on alkaline diet sites really shows me the idiocy going on out there:
High acid-forming diets that cannot be properly digested acidify body tissue and eventually lead to Low Chronic Acidosis that will drain and weaken the health and energy of every human cell in the body.
Got cells other than human ones in your body? Didn’t think so.
Clearly, someone fell asleep in physiology class on the day kidney function and acid-base balance was covered. Incredible.
But people continue to buy the ‘science’ behind the alkaline diet (even though there really isn’t any), so let’s take a look at what it’s all about.
The alkaline diet is based on the premise that the foods we eat can affect the pH of our bodies, namely of our blood. The pH of our blood is between 7.35 and 7.45, which is slightly alkaline (a pH of 7 is neutral)
When we eat food, it breaks down into ash (sort of like a campfire, but that’s a gross oversimplification). This ash is acidic, alkaline, or neutral, depending on the foods you eat. Supporters of this diet believe that eating acidic food, which breaks down into acidic ash, can cause our bodies to become acidic. They also believe that when our bodies are acidic, this can cause all sorts of horrible diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.
Foods on this diet are categorized as the following:
Acidic foods include: meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, and grains (what a shock), walnuts, cocoa, snow peas, and chickpeas.
Neutral foods are mostly oils and fats.
Alkaline foods include: avocado, grapes, white rice, tahini, oranges, rice syrup, and garlic, along with many vegetables and other fruits.
It’s important to note that to find foods to represent the above categories, I looked at multiple acid-alkaline food charts, and they all differed from each other. It seems no one can agree on which foods are acid and which ones are alkaline. Oh well!
Measuring urine for its pH level is a part of this diet. Someone following an alkaline diet is looking for their urine to be alkaline. This supposedly means that their body is alkaline, but nope, nope, nope. Totally false.
Let’s talk about what the diet gets wrong:
I mean, first off, the diet makes a total mockery of basic physiology. Our blood pH is tightly regulated by our kidneys, lungs, and our buffer system, and isn’t affected at all by what we eat. Why in the world can’t people understand this?
Blood pH is UNRELATED to our diets. PERIOD. No matter what Gwynnie says, people!!
Plenty of ‘acidic’ foods are actually healthy. So you’re not going to eat nuts, beans, or cocoa because they’re acidic?
What the hell! That should tell you right off the bat that this diet is a stinker.
As far as the pH of our urine, that does change – if you eat an acidic food, your body dumps the acid in your urine, so yeah, your urine will be temporarily acidic (and urine normally has a pH of between 4.5 and 8). But food isn’t the only thing that changes the pH of your urine. Medications, diseases, and even the time of day – morning urine is more acidic than later on in the day – can affect it. So the fact that people are dipping their urine believing that this is an accurate test for anything at all is a total waste of time.
Let me tell you something about your body.
We have three mechanisms for controlling the acid-base balance of our bodies: our lungs, our kidneys, and our buffer system. You can read all about how these mechanisms keep a really tight rein on our blood pH. Eat a steak? No problem. The kidneys will get rid of that excess acid in the urine, and they’ll also release bicarb to regulate the acidity of your blood.
If the body worked like this diet says it does, you’d die from eating an apple, or you’d at least feel really, really sick all the time. But no, your body has you covered. Isn’t nature wonderful?
What that kooky kook said above about chronic acidosis doesn’t ring true unless you have an actual acid-base disorder. These include poorly controlled kidney disease or diabetes, severe diarrhea, or poisoning (like if you drank antifreeze). Got none of those? Are you generally healthy? Then you’re probably just fine.
As far as the claims about blood acidity and cancer go, I’ve got this to say:
First of all, cancer does thrive in an acidic environment, but the cancer also causes this acidic environment. Cancer can also grow all over the body, even in less-acidic environments. What’s that about blood pH and cancer again? Pffft. Plus, remember – diet doesn’t affect the pH of your blood.
As far as heart disease, I don’t think it’s the acid-base balance of your body that’s really causing issues with your heart. It’s the crappy hot dogs and shitty salami (both ‘acidic’ foods) that you’re eating! This is where this diet actually gets something RIGHT – most of the alkaline foods it promotes are healthy. Well, except it says that most nuts are acidic and shouldn’t be eaten, and I find that ridiculous. Plus, coffee is considered to be acidic. Screw that!
But anyhow, following this diet will likely lead you to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables, and a whole lot less sugary, processed crap. That is what’s right about this diet (pretty much the only thing, mind you), although it does cut out some healthy foods (nuts, whole grains, dairy) that you can certainly live without but really don’t have to. There’s nothing wrong with these foods, and I would hate you to stop eating them because you’re following this totally half-baked diet. Wait, what if you eat an alkaline food with a really acidic one? Do you get a neutral food? Sheesh.
If you want to follow the alkaline diet, then do it: you’ll probably eat better. Just don’t go on this diet because you don’t understand basic physiology, and because you buy into the nonsensical idea of your food affecting your blood pH.
Remember: You don’t eat acid or alkaline, good or bad. You eat FOOD. And your body is well-equipped to deal with that.