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The Alkaline Diet Debunked - What You Need to Know About Alkalinization and Acidification of the Body

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    Martin Rebane
    Junior Member

  • The Alkaline Diet Debunked - What You Need to Know About Alkalinization and Acidification of the Body

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    Even if you haven't heard about the alkaline diet, you've definitely seen popular healthy bloggers and self-proclaimed nutritionists talk about harmful products that acidify the body.

    Meat, fish, sugar, and most of grains are listed by them as dangerous for the acid-base balance. And the very acidification of the body, they call the cause of cancer, osteoporosis, chronic diseases, and general inflammation.

    Proponents of the alkaline theory say that you can balance your pH, which means that you can improve and maintain your health if you use a lot of alkalizing products and minimize acidifying ones in the diet.

    It is suggested to check the acid-base balance of the body by measuring the pH of urine or saliva using litmus tests. Articles on this topic abound with terms like “acidic valence of food”, “chronic acidosis of the body”. And how in fact, science is looking at the alkaline diet?


    If you do not have time and energy to understand medical terms, read about hydrogen metabolism, homeostasis, and ampholytic properties of proteins, here is a brief retelling of this article:
    • you can not talk about the pH of the entire body, you can not measure the pH of the body, and even more so to judge it by the CSF of saliva or urine
    • evolution has been honing the mechanisms for maintaining blood pH for a million years, so you can't change the settings even in 100 years of your life
    • to change the pH of blood and intracellular fluid, you need to drink something like hydrochloric acid. You do not need to do this, because it is deadly
    • the kidneys, not the bones, are responsible for the pH of blood, so you won't get osteoporosis from steak
    • the pH level of cancer cells is really acidic, but this is a consequence, not a cause. We explain how the tumor works on the example of a tired biathlete
    • there is no reason to be guided by the pH level when making a diet
    • for some people this approach to food may be dangerous


    Want to know the details? Let's sort it out in order.





    What is pH?

    This is one of the indicators of the acid-base state, which in a certain mathematical dependence reflects the concentration (and it is very low) of hydrogen ions in the solution.

    The higher pH, the fewer hydrogen ions in the solution. The lower – the greater the concentration of hydrogen ions.

    The concept of pH is only applicable to aqueous solutions. When you talk about PH, protein, fat, and carbohydrates – this is fundamentally wrong. But in the process of their metabolism in various environments of the body, pH appears.


    Different parts of the body may have different pH. For example, the stomach, regardless of what you eat, ends up with an acidic environment.


    And chyme – a mixture of food, gastric juice, saliva, enzymes, hydrochloric acid – sharp acid. But it can only get into the 12-duodenum when its pH becomes slightly acidic or alkaline.

    And already in the 12-duodenum, all digestive juices – bile, pancreatic enzymes – are highly alkaline.

    You can also talk about the pH of blood, intracellular fluid, saliva, and urine. But if you measure the pH level of saliva, you will not know what the concentration of hydrogen ions in blood or gastric juice is.






    The pH of blood and intracellular fluid

    One can imagine that an organism is a chemical enterprise, where processes have been debugged for millions of years. It takes a very serious effort to change its parameters. These do not usually occur under standard conditions.

    It is clear that if you drink a glass of acid, it will not lead to anything good.


    But if you do not eat something critical or do not take actions that fundamentally break the entire adaptation system, the pH of internal media-blood, extracellular and intracellular fluid – does not change, no matter what you eat or drink.


    The pH level can change in very serious diseases, such as kidney failure.

    This indicator is extremely important because enzymes can only function at a certain pH level. And the body controls it very carefully and provides homeostasis – the constancy of the internal environment.


    You can eat meat, you can eat salads, and not spend a penny on tests and always be sure that the pH level of your blood is 7.4.


    It is usually after these words that proponents of the alkaline diet tell you about the compensatory actions of the body, which, to preserve the pH of blood, sacrifices bones to “neutralize the acid".






    Bones don't regulate pH

    We said above that an important indicator can change with kidney diseases. Because it is the task of this organ to regulate the pH of blood.

    When we digest “harmful acidifying protein” (and if you look at the tables compiled by proponents of this diet, you will find that almost all meat and poultry carry an acidic load), the kidneys produce bicarbonate ions to neutralize the acid.

    The reaction produces carbon dioxide, which is removed by the lungs, and salts. Some of their kidneys and output, simultaneously producing the spent bicarbonate. The word “bones " is not mentioned anywhere in this paragraph, because they are not involved in the process. No way.


    Therefore, “acidification of the body” does not cause osteoporosis. Moreover, an analysis of a large number of papers on the effects of “acidifying” and “alkalizing” foods on bone health shows that this effect is not present.


    For example, here and here are two large meta-analyses of studies on the alkaline diet. Their findings: “the link between dietary acid load and osteoporosis has not been confirmed, and there is no evidence that an alkaline diet protects bone health.”






    Acidification of the body and cancer

    Many processes cause a temporary deviation in pH. When there is an exorbitant physical activity, muscles, nerve tissues consume a large amount of energy. What does it mean?

    When there is enough oxygen in the places where it is consumed, in cells, or more precisely, on the mitochondria of cells, various substances are oxidized: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.


    And they all go through the carbohydrate stage and the tricarboxylic acid cycle, in which carbohydrates, burning to water and carbon dioxide, give up the chemical energy stored in them.


    When there is enough oxygen, this happens without the accumulation of acidic products. That is, all of them are broken down into carbon dioxide and water, carbon dioxide is perfectly eliminated by the lungs, and pH shifts do not occur.

    Now imagine that a biathlete, a champion, is running and he/she is very tired. The commentator says: “The athlete has acidified.” What does it mean?

    All the adaptive systems of this biathlete in terms of oxygen delivery did not work. And there is a lack of substance – not in the surrounding air, but in the cell.

    The tricarboxylic acid cycle begins to lack oxygen, and under-oxidized products are formed. Then the body switches to the anaerobic – oxygen – free-way of obtaining energy. It is much less efficient and slower, much to athlete's regret.

    Under-oxidized foods change the pH – for a relatively short time. When the need for increased load disappears, it is restored again.

    Tumor tissue is the native tissue of the body, which, due to some reasons, was reborn and became “wild”, strayed from the collective. All other cells, ordinary, are organized in a certain way, they receive nutrition and are able to “output” the results of their life activity.

    The tumor tissue does not have such an infrastructure, there is no one to deliver this oxygen to it. Therefore, it uses an anaerobic pathway to generate energy. There, under-oxidized products accumulate, and the pH of the medium shifts to the acidic side.


    Cancer creates a low pH by itself and does not live only where it is acidic. There is evidence that cancer cells grow well in an alkaline environment.


    There is no evidence that the use of “acidifying” products leads to cancer.

    Every tumor disease has a cause or group of causes, and this is not the use of “acidifying products".






    Why you should not be guided by the pH level in the diet

    Many substances in the process of numerous multidirectional reactions in the body can initiate a medium with a deviation from the average pH values. Some, such as proteins, often have so-called ampholytic properties.

    Depending on the environment, they behave differently and can shift the pH to both the acidic and alkaline side. Thus, they keep the balance.

    pH is important, but this is only one indicator. There are many others that determine the course and direction of these processes, their “correctness” (physiology), and “wrongness " (pathology).


    You can't put pH at the top of your diet. The human body was formed from single-celled cells for many millions of years. And all these relationships are built by natural selection.


    Given that people are a biologically progressive species which increases their number, are made very reliably. And all attempts to build your strategy on some randomly selected indicators are not justified at least, but as a maximum - they are extremely stupid.

    Moreover, there are a number of conditions associated with changes in metabolism (with a tendency to stone formation in the kidneys, gall bladder, salivary ducts), when such an approach to nutrition can even be dangerous!


    Yes, it is good to eat vegetables and herbs and exclude fast food and sugar. But you should not give up meat, fish, and poultry because they allegedly acidify the body, or spend money on special alkalizing supplements.


    There is no evidence that a diet based on the acidification-alkalinization theory works.
    Martin Rebane
    Junior Member
    Last edited by Martin Rebane; 10-18-2020, 04:42 PM.

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