In today’s diet focused world, it is easy to find misinformation about almost every type of food. A current example of this are the foods promoted by the alkaline diet.
The main belief of the alkaline diet is that diets high in acidic foods can alter the pH value, or acidity, of the human body and cause damage to the body, which increases susceptibility to diseases. Foods that have a pH below seven are viewed as acidic, while those above seven are categorized as alkaline or basic. According to the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, examples of foods that are high in acidity are grain products, meats and dairy products, and fruits and vegetables are low in acidity.
But can acidic food really impact the body’s pH?
Maintaining proper pH within the human body is incredibly important to maintain proper function. If blood pH level falls outside of normal ranges, the consequences can be fatal.
The human body has many essential systems for maintaining proper blood pH. According to the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, proper blood pH is around 7.4.
One way the body maintains proper pH balance is by removing acids through the urine. This means that the foods you eat can impact the pH of your urine. For example, if you ate a large steak for dinner, your urine would be slightly acidic for a few hours after while your body removes waste from breaking down the steak.
However, studies by the British Journal of Nutrition have shown that the consumption of acidic foods does not alter blood pH. These studies show that your body is capable of properly breaking down acidic food and removing any excess waste from your body.
Some additional claims associated with the alkaline diet are a decreased risk of osteoporosis and risk of cancer. However, the British Journal of Nutrition claims that there have been no long-term studies that support the notion that alkaline diets decrease risk of osteoporosis.
In terms of cancer risk the Journal of Nutrition & Metabolism states, “there is limited evidence to suggest that dietary acidosis alone is sufficient to increase cancer risk, but it may function in concert with other factors associated with cancer risk.” This means that a diet high in acidic foods is not by itself a risk factor for cancer but may be associated with other factors that increase cancer risk.
The suspected health benefits associated with the alkaline diet may be due to the fact that it promotes consumption of fruits and vegetables while minimizing processed foods. However, the claims of improving health based on pH levels are not evidence-based and ignore the human body’s ability to maintain proper pH levels.
Fad diets, like the alkaline diet, often manipulate scientific research and are not a sustainable lifestyle change. Maintaining pH balance is just one of the many incredibly designed systems within the human body. It does not inherently need external help to function normally. The best thing you can do for your body is to eat a well-balanced diet and let your body do the rest.
Emily (Parsons) Preston is an Eau Claire native majoring in dietetics at at UW-Stout, Menomonie.