Is an Alkaline Diet Truly Effective?

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Vegetables are included in an alkaline diet.

Followers of an alkaline diet believe eating a diet rich in alkaline-forming foods have unique health benefits. Another hypothesis behind the alkaline diet is that foods high in sodium, protein, and phosphates send your body out of its “normal” alkaline pH levels and become too acidic.

Proponents claim the diet will improve your bone health, prevent or treat cancer, and keep you happy and healthy. But does the alkaline diet really work?

The claims of bone health or cancer cures appear to be over-reaching. Scientific research hasn’t uncovered any substantial evidence that any foods cause your body to become “acidified.” In fact, your body normally has a whole range of pH. Your stomach has a very acidic environment so you can digest proteins and minerals, but your blood is slightly alkaline. A woman’s vagina is on the acidic side while the pH of the intestinal tract should be neutral or a little on the alkaline side. Your skin also has an acidic pH.

As long as you’re healthy, your body regulates the various pH levels of your body nicely. And while certain diseases such as kidney disease and diabetes might cause problems in pH regulation, there’s no scientific evidence supporting the idea that foods you eat will make your whole body more acidic.

Possible Benefits of an Alkaline Diet

The alkaline diet promotes an increased intake of fruits and vegetables and avoids heavily processed foods that are high in sodium and saturated fat. That’s good because the typical Western diet is low in fruits and vegetables and has much more sodium and fat than is necessary. I’d say that if there is any benefit to this diet, it’s probably due to the inclusion of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables and the impact on pH is immaterial.

As far as fad diets go, this one doesn’t seem to be too risky, but it does eliminate some nutritious foods such as milk and dairy products, which are excellent sources of dietary protein and calcium. That’s unfortunate (and unfounded) because research studies indicate consuming these foods doesn’t have an acidifying effect on the body, nor does it mess up calcium metabolism. Eating meat doesn’t change the pH of your body either.

What About Alkaline Supplements?

Most “alkalinizing” supplements contain minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which are essential minerals. If you don’t eat a balanced diet, you may need more of these minerals, but you can get enough from most any daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. 

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