Over the past few years, I’ve seen a lot of hype about the Alkaline Diet. People who promote this diet claim that foods like meat, dairy, eggs, and processed foods create an acidic environment in the body, which causes inflammation and many health problems like obesity, osteoporosis and cancer. But is this true?
Today I want to set the record straight! So, first thing’s first: you need to know that what we eat cannot significantly change the pH of our blood. Our body maintains our blood pH within a very narrow range that is not easily changed, except in the case of certain medical conditions like kidney disease. Such conditions can cause a high amount of acid in the blood, which requires immediate medical treatment to prevent organ failure or possible death. Eating acid forming foods cannot have this effect on our blood (or else we’d all be dead)!
Likewise, eating alkaline foods won’t make our blood alkaline. So those claims that following the Alkaline Diet will cure cancer because it alkalizes our body therefore killing cancer cells? Not true.
But… what food can do is change the pH of our urine. Foods like fruits and vegetables cause more alkaline urine, whereas meat, dairy, and highly salty foods result in more acidic urine. So what does this mean?
This is a complicated topic and there is lots of conflicting evidence in this area. One thing that is known for sure is that acidic urine contains higher levels of calcium (source). So naturally this has made many researchers think that eating acidic, protein rich foods causes calcium to be pulled from the bones. There are a few studies to support this happens in the short term, but there are also many studies showing that an acidic, high protein diet is associated with healthier bones (source)! And there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that calcium excreted in acidic urine causes osteoporosis in the long term (source).
Some people like to bring up the fact that populations in Asia eat very little dairy and have low rates of osteoporosis as evidence to support the Alkaline Diet. But this isn’t proof because the data is purely correlational. Just because two factors are correlated, it doesn’t mean that one causes the other. There are many other reasons why Asian populations may have low rates of osteoporosis such as greater vitamin D intake from fish or sunlight, or lower sodium intake from processed foods.
So clearly many aspects of the Alkaline Diet are not supported by scientific evidence. But… eating more fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds is still a good thing! And in fact, they may even be good for your bones. There is conflicting evidence in this area too, but experts have deemed it as “possible” that fruits and vegetables are beneficial for bone health (source). But it’s not because of their alkalinity. It may simply be because fruits and vegetables are full of many vitamins and minerals that are good for your bones, such as potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin K to just name a few.
The bottom line: What you eat cannot make your body more alkaline. So you can skip that overpriced alkaline water without an ounce of evidence behind it and just focus on eating more fruits and vegetables – not because they alkalize your body but because they’re good for you!