by Ericka Johns
The alkaline diet is one that involves eating foods categorized as either alkaline or acidic, in order to achieve a balancd pH level of all of the fluids in one’s body (i.e. blood and urine). The goal of the diet is to bring the pH of one’s blood to about 7.35-7.45. Advocates of this diet believe that disease and disorder cannot take place, or survive, in a body with a balanced pH. 1 This means that proponents of this diet believe it to be a cure-all formula. The philosophy behind the alkaline diet is that if you eat foods that balance your pH levels, there will be less stress on the homeostatic mechanisms of the body, leading to good health. One popular proponent of the alkaline diet is Robert O. Young, who uses the diet as a form of “treatment” for his patients with cancer. Patients like Kim Tinkham, whose case lead to death, might opt for the alkaline diet as opposed to evidence-based treatments offered at a traditional medical hospital. 2
Whether or not the alkaline diet can cure or prevent cancer is not empirically supported because there are no scientific human studies that has tested these connections. In fact, in a systematic review conducted by Tanis R Fenton and Tian Heung 3, no studies involving randomized trials or any that examined dietary acid or alkalinity and the connection to cancer treatment were found. It is important to note that this review included 8278 citations and 252 abstracts. The closest thing to scientific evidence that can be found in support of the alkaline diet and cancer treatment is a lab study that showed that some cancer cells show faster growth in an acidic solution and treatment worked better when the area around a tumor was made alkaline.
According to WebMD’s Dr. Melinda Ratini, there is early evidence that suggests that a diet low in acid-producing foods (like animal proteins and processed foods) and high in fruits and vegetables can aide in the prevention of kidney stones, strengthen bones and muscles, lower risk of type 2 diabetes, improve heart and brain function, and reduce lower back pain. Though this is promising evidence in support of the alkaline diet, researchers are still unsure of some of these claims because it is so new4. There is a chance that the direct impact that proponents of the diet are pushing (eating more alkaline foods balances the blood’s pH and leads to perfect health) may be illusory. As Dr. Ratini points out, an increase in fruit and vegetable intake, and the absence of processed foods and other high-sodium foods, will lead to weight loss and better health. This can be the relationship that proponents of the alkaline diet are observing but are attributing the results of this observation to the link between the diet and a direct impact on the pH level of the blood.
This is also a diet that many celebrities, such as Erykah Badu, Kate Hudson, and Victoria Beckham, have endorsed 5. This can serve as an influence when you see how healthy and youthful these celebrities seem to be. This is also a diet that requires no exercise, includes foods you can find at your local grocery store, does not involve medical doctors, and presents itself as a cure-all. All of these factors combined are appealing for those who prefer natural remedies, those who do not like exercising, those who are not fans of hospitals, and those who desire to be in control of their life and health. Proponents of this diet tend to be naturalists who follow the teachings of famous natural “doctors” such as those of Dr. Sebi, whose teachings were based on a link between what we eat and how our bodies function. In today’s society, social media plays a huge role in what is trending and what becomes a part of our culture, this includes our diets 6. On platforms such as Instagram, we have people called “Influencers” whose accounts exist to “influence” a certain brand or lifestyle. One of these lifestyles heavily represented on Instagram is that of healthy living, which sometimes include advocating the alkaline diet. This encourages people to consider the diet and maybe try it for themselves when they see their favorite influencers endorsing the diet with accompanying “facts” and anecdotal testimonies.
In conclusion, there is not enough empirical evidence to support the claims popularized by proponents of the alkaline diet. Though some research has shown that a diet low in acidic foods can have a positive effect on the body, more research is required to test these claims. As far as the direct relationship between the alkaline diet and cancer, there has been no research supporting or denying the diet’s influence. The truth of the matter is, an increase in fruit and vegetable intake will lead to positive results, whether or not it’s due to the diet’s impact on the body’s blood pH is currently unknown/untested.
9 thoughts on “The Alkaline Diet”
I was intrigued reading your post because I am always interested in learning about new diets and hearing the arguments for and against them. It seems like there’s a new “cure-all” diet pretty often, and many people might fall victim to believing this diet can save them from any illness or negative health outcome. I found the research by Dr. Ratini interesting to read about, and it seems that this diet can have many beneficial effects. However, the placebo effect also might play a role and this is something important to consider.
in our society, I feel like there’s always a new hot diet trending. Diets can be okay for your health when done safely. Referring to the alkaline diet as a cure all can be very dangerous. The alkaline diet as well as other integrative medicines are meant to be used in conjunction with primary care. I wonder how many deaths there have been because a patient refused advised treatment for a “treatment” like the alkaline diet.
As you mentioned in your blog post, eating more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods has a positive impact on your health, so people are falsely attributing the specific low acidic content of this diet to the reason why they lose weight and are healthy. It’s pretty known that red meats, dairy, sweets, junk food and processed foods are unhealthy but not necessarily because of how acidic they are. Although this diet isn’t inherently bad for you (or what it looks like) because it’s mostly just advocating for you to eat healthy foods and doesn’t seem to have any unhealthy caloric restrictions, it’s not effective for the reasons it claims. It’s definitely interesting how certain diets become all the rage even though the premise of the diet isn’t exactly based in science.
This seems a lot more of a diet that will change your lifestyle rather than just a crash diet that helps give immediate but short lived results. It’s really interesting to see how a diet can seem effective and even get celebrity endorsement without any true evidence to show its effectiveness other than the base line of fruits and vegetables being a healthy dietary choice.
I feel like if the answer was as simple as this diet, everyone’s problems would be solved. People wouldn’t still be battling things like diabetes and cancer. Considering we are still dealing with health problems such as these, it makes it hard to believe this diet is actually effective in how people are claiming it to be.
I think you make a great point that if the cure for serious diseases like diabetes and cancer was just a diet change, nobody would have to deal with them. A lot of people seem to overlook how genetics plays a role in things like cancer and no matter how healthy you eat, you could be susceptible to getting it regardless.
Interesting read! I never really knew exactly what an alkaline diet consisted of or what exactly the benefits were, and I had no idea some people believed that it could prevent cancer! You would think if that was actually true, we would all be on an alkaline diet. The celebrity endorsement also probably caused a huge influx of followers for this. You are also right about the fruits and veggies improving overall quality of health period, even without the rest of the alkaline diet involved.
I commented on another post about this as well. I am amazed that I had never heard of this diet, and yet many in the class seem to know specifics of it. Dieting is so common, and is constantly finding new trends. The problem with this trends is that they are mostly unproven and unstudied. Someone makes a claim that a diet works, everyone believes them, and then 20 years later we realize maybe taking 4 salt pills a day isn’t the best thing for muscle development. Then again, most diets don’t claim to cure cancer. I feel bad for those on this diet only because they believe it will magically make them invincible.
Before reading your post I’ve never heard about this diet before. There have been so many diet trends these days that it’s hard to keep up. It seems as though everyone is ready to swear by diets that have such little evidence to back them up just from celebrities and influencers. I agree that the improvements in health most likely come from eating more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods, because that is a point that many types of diets make and it seems like it’s the only thing different diets agree on. The thing that worries me about this diet is that since it’s advertised as a sort of a cure all it will make people that need medical attention not seek it because they believe that all they need is this diet.
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