A Dietitian's Review on the Alkaline Diet
Updated: Sep 3
Something that I’ve noticed a lot over the past couple of years is an increase in marketing and production of alkaline foods and beverages. I was really curious about the origins of this diet and if there is science to back it (spoiler alert: there’s not much). In this blog post, we will break down exactly what the science says about this diet and why the alkaline diet is just another fad diet you shouldn’t try. Recently this diet has regained popularity after originating a few years back. So, why has it become so popular again and what is the purpose of the alkaline diet anyway? Read below to learn more!
What Are the Claims?
Those who advocate for the alkaline diet believe that eating acidic foods causes the body to produce acid, possibly creating an acidic environment in the blood. Proponents believe that consuming alkaline foods and beverages (foods in which the pH falls between the ranges of 7- 14) help to decrease the build-up of acidic compounds in the body. Alternatively, they believe that eating alkaline foods help to protect the body against negative health impacts including defense against chronic kidney disease, weight loss, osteoporosis and arthritis prevention. Some other health benefit claims include increased energy levels, mental clarity, reduced risk of cancer, better immune health, and healthier skin and hair. The website even goes as far to claim that it can “rid you of all the health woes brought on by an acidic diet.” The Scale of Acidity/Alkalinity To further understand the claims behind the alkaline diet, let’s look into the basics of bases and acids. Acids are compounds that have a pH of less than 7 while bases have a pH of greater than 7 (alkaline). Now, the normal serum pH of humans normally lies between 7.35-7.45. The body naturally works to keep the pH around this level through multiple buffer systems throughout the body including the lymphatic system and renal system.
What You Can and Cannot Eat
Now that we’ve gone over the claims and the basics behind what the alkaline diet is based on, let’s look into why this diet is just another restrictive fad diet. As with all other fad diets, the alkaline diet limits the types of foods you can eat and sets hard rules and limitations on eating only “alkaline” foods. Foods included in this diet include most fruits, all veggies, herbs, nuts, and seeds. However, foods that are not allowed include meat, poultry, fish, dairy, legumes, most grains, and processed foods. “Neutral” foods in this diet include natural fats, starches, and sugars. With other fad diets, the alkaline diet extremely limits incredibly important food groups. Foods like grains, meats, legumes, and dairy are important sources of multiple minerals and vitamins, proteins, fiber, and numerous other nutrients. This diet also continues to push the narrative that something is inherently wrong with your body and you need to fix it. Moreover, this diet continues to further the cycle of diet culture.
What Does the Science Say
There is little to no scientific evidence that actually backs any of the claims of this diet. The body will continue to push for an optimal blood pH of around 7.4, no matter what foods are consumed. This is because the body functions and regulates most optimally at this pH and will do what it can to keep it in this range. As mentioned briefly before as well, the body will continue to maintain this range through respiration, urination, and other bodily functions. Most of the time we actually need acid-containing foods in our diet simply to keep us at a natural pH. Even if you eat a high protein meal, your body will continue to correct itself to get back to its natural and most optimal pH range. To even further the point that this diet is a fad, the original creator of this diet, Dr. Robert Young, is actually facing jail time due to practicing medicine without a license. He was caught treating terminally ill cancer patients with baking soda infusions as a type of treatment rather than medical treatments.
As nutrition professionals, it is incredibly important to us that the public is making sound decisions on some of these diets by actually reading evidence rooted in actual research. Even further, we believe that diets continue to push us away from an intuitive relationship with food and body. If you are curious about our services and want to break free from diet culture, please contact us!