What is Alkaline Diet? Here is the Detailed analysis!
The alkaline diet seems too good to be true. Proponents of this diet suggest that replacing acidic foods with alkaline foods improves our health. They even claim that alkaline food can help fight serious diseases such as cancer. There are many people who every day praises this diet hoping that it offers miraculous results. But is there any evidence behind the alkaline diet? Let’s go see it.
What is the Alkaline Diet?
The alkaline diet is also known as the acid-alkaline diet or the alkaline ash diet. It is based on the idea that the foods you eat can alter the acidity or alkalinity (ph) of your body. I will explain how it works: When we metabolize food and extract energy from it (what would be calories), what we are actually doing is burning food, something that happens in a slow and controlled way. When food is burned, they actually leave a residue of ash, something similar to when you burn wood. As a result, this ash can be acidic or alkaline (or neutral), this is when people who defend this diet claim that this ash can directly affect the acidity of our body. So if you eat foods that leave an acid ash, your body will stay acidic. If you eat foods with alkaline ash, then your body will remain alkaline. Neutral ashes will have no effect. As simple as that. Acid ash is thought to make us vulnerable to disease, while alkaline ash is considered protective.
“By choosing the most alkaline foods, you would “alkalize” your diet and thereby improve your health”.
The foods that make an acid ash would be the proteins, phosphate and sulfur, while those that make an alkaline ash would be calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Certain groups are considered acidic, alkaline or neutral:
- Acidic foods: Meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, cereals and alcohol.
- Neutral foods: Natural fats, starches and sugars.
- Alkaline foods: Fruits, nuts, legumes and vegetables.
Conclusion: According to the people who defend the alkaline diet, the ash that arises from burning food can directly affect the acidity or alkalinity of our body.
The Ph Levels that Regulate Our Body
When talking about the alkaline diet, it is important to understand the meaning of the value of the PH. In short, the PH value is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of our body.
The pH value varies from 0 to 14:
- 0-7 is acid
- 7 is neutral
- 7-14 is alkaline (often also called basic)
Proponents of the alkaline diet control the pH value using strips that analyze your urine and give you the value of your pH. It is important to keep in mind that the pH value varies many within the body. Some parts are acidic, others are alkaline. There is no established level. The stomach, for example, is charged with hydrochloric acid, giving it a pH value between 2 and 3.5 (very acidic). This is necessary in order to decompose the food. On the other hand, we have human blood, which is always slightly alkaline, with a pH between 7.35 and 7.45. If the pH value of our blood goes out of the normal range, it can be very serious for our health, it should be treated urgently. However, this only happens during certain illness states, and has nothing to do with the foods you eat on a day-to-day basis.
Conclusion: The pH value is a measure of acidity or alkalinity. The pH of the stomach is very acidic, while that of the blood is alkaline.
Related article: We analyze the controversial Dukan Diet
Foods Affect the PH of Your Urine, But Not that of Your Blood
It is fundamental for our health that the pH of the blood stays constant. If it falls outside the normal range, the cells could stop working and if not treated, they would die very quickly. For this reason, the body has many effective mechanisms to closely regulate the pH balance in our body. This is known as acid-base homeostasis. Fortunately for us, these mechanisms make it almost impossible for external influences to change the pH value in our blood. The fact is that … food simply cannot change the pH of our blood. However, the food itself can change the pH of our urine, although the effect it can have is not very reliable. This is actually one of the main ways our bodies regulate the pH of the blood by excreting acids from the urine. When you eat a large steak, hours later your urine will be acidic, your body eliminates it from the system. That said, the pH of the urine is actually a very bad indicator of the pH of our body in general and our health. Therefore, if you are using strips to analyze your urine and see that it becomes alkaline, this has little (if any) relevance to the alkalinity of your blood, or your health.
Conclusion: The body regulates blood pH levels and it is not possible for these to be influenced by our diet. However, diet can change the pH value of our urine.
The Acid that Form the Food Does Not Cause Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a progressive bone disease characterized by a decrease in bone mineral content. Osteoporosis is particularly common among postmenopausal women, and can dramatically increase the risk of suffering bills. Many followers of the alkaline diet believe that in order to maintain a constant pH of blood, the body takes alkaline minerals (such as calcium) from the bones to buffer the acids from the foods that are consumed and that are generators of acid. According to this theory, acid-producing diets, such as a diet typical of a Western diet, would cause a loss in bone mineral density. This theory is known as the “acid ash hypothesis in osteoporosis”. The obvious problem with this theory is that the function of the kidneys is completely ignored. Our kidneys are fundamental for the elimination of acids and to regulate the pH of the body. This is one of its main functions. The kidneys produce bicarnonate ions that neutralize blood acids, a sustainable process that allows the body to regulate the pH of the blood with force. Our respiratory system also participates in the control of the pH of the blood. When the bicarbonate ions in the kidneys bind to the acids in the blood, they form carbon dioxide and water. In this process bones do not participate.
Another problem with this hypothesis is that it ignores one of the main drivers of osteoporosis, which is a loss of the protein collagen in the bones. Ironically, this loss of collagen is strongly linked with low levels of orthosilicic acid and ascorbic acid in our diet. Regarding the studies that have been done in this regard, none has found a relationship between acid in the diet and bone density or risk of fractures. In fact, there is not even a relationship between the pH of urine and bone health. Contrary to popular belief, diets that are high in protein are linked to having healthier bones. This area of research is not definitive, but it does suggest that animal protein, the food that is most acid generator of all, is really beneficial for bone health. Regarding clinical trials, many of the major criticisms have concluded that acid-generating diets have no impact on calcium levels in the body. In any case, improve the health of the bones by increasing calcium retention and activating the hormone IGF-1, which stimulates the repair of muscle and bone. This reinforces the studies that link that a diet high in protein helps improve bone health, not to worsen it.
Conclusion: Research in this regard does not support the idea that diets that are generating acid are harmful to our bones. Protein, a nutrient that is acid, seems to be beneficial.
What Happens to Acidity and Cancer?
The studies that analyzed the relationship between diets induced to acidosis and cancer concluded that there was no direct relationship between the two. Despite this evidence, many still argue that cancer only grows in an acid medium and can be treated or even cured with an alkaline diet. But this idea is wrong for different reasons. First and foremost, and most importantly, as I mentioned earlier, food does not influence the pH of the blood. Second, even if we assume that food could significantly alter the pH value of blood or other tissues, cancer cells are not restricted to acidic environments. In fact, cancer grows in normal body tissue that has a slightly alkaline pH of 7.4. Many experiments have confirmed the successful growth of cancer cells in alkaline environments. And while tumors grow faster in acidic environments, tumors actually create this acidity on their own. It is not the acidic environment that creates cancer, it is cancer that creates the acidic environment.
Conclusion: Current studies show that there is absolutely no relationship between an acid formed from our diet and cancer. Cancer cells also grow in alkaline environments.
Can we Learn Something from Ancestral Diets?
As for the acid-alkaline theory from an evolutionary and scientific perspective we can reveal valuable information. A study estimates that 87% of pre-agricultural humans ate alkaline diets. This was the basis for many people to blindly believe in the benefits of the alkaline diet. However, there are studies of the Masai in which it was found that an acid diet had no negative impact on health. The Masai, an indigenous population, maintain excellent health despite the fact that their diet is based on foods of animal origin. A research most recent estimates that half of the pre-agricultural humans eat an alkaline diet while the other half ate acidic diets. This seems more realistic considering that our ancestors lived in very diverse climates, in which there was access to different foods. So, despite the fact that about half of the hunter-gatherers ate a distinctly acid diet, practically no diseases of modern civilization existed.
Unlike many other diets that exist today, the alkaline diet is quite healthy. It encourages the consumption of “alkaline foods,” such as fruits, vegetables, and healthy plant foods, while restricting processed foods. That said, the claims that justify the benefits of this diet are not all supported by evolutionary evidence, human physiology or by a study that is reliable in humans. Acidic foods are one of the most important building blocks in our nutrition, including amino acids, fatty acids and their DNA. The alkaline diet is healthy, since it is based on real foods, which are not processed. Which has nothing to do with being acidic or alkaline? That is all. Have you ever made the alkaline diet? If so, I would like to know your experience with it, you can do so by leaving your comments below.
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