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The Alkaline Diet: Is pH Key to Weight Loss?

Katherine Brooking, RD - Blogs
By Katherine Brooking, MS, RDRegistered dietitianAugust 14, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

Recently I’ve noticed a resurgence of “The Alkaline Diet.” Celebs including Beyoncé, Victoria Beckham, Jennifer Aniston and Kelly Ripa tout its benefits – claiming it helps you lose weight, reduce inflammation, and even avoid cancer.

But before you get too dazzled by the celebrity endorsements and hop on the “alkaline” bandwagon, it’s important to know the facts from the hype.

The Premise:
Proponents of The Alkaline Diet say that when we load up on excess amounts of protein, sugar, caffeine and other highly processed foods, our pH levels are thrown off track, our bodies become more acidic, and that can lead to weight gain and disease. The remedy, they say? Eat fresh vegetables, fresh fruit and other “alkaline-promoting foods” such as soy products, legumes, and certain nuts and grains. “Acid-promoting foods”, which include meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, processed foods, white sugar, white flour, and caffeine, are discouraged.

The Science:
The idea of eating a certain way to achieve an ideal pH level has popped up in many diets over the years, so it’s nothing new or groundbreaking. However there is a major flaw with this premise: Our bodies maintain their pH balance regardless of what we eat! In fact, the body has several mechanisms to ensure that pH levels are highly controlled at different specific levels. For example, the stomach has a pH ranging from 1.35-3.5. It must be acidic to aid in digestion. Our blood must always be slightly alkaline, with a pH of 7.35 to 7.45.

Despite this, many of those following an alkaline plan insist on testing the pH of their urine multiple times per day to make sure that their bodies aren’t too acidic. This is a waste of both time and money. While diet and other metabolic processes can affect the pH level of your urine, what you eat does not determine your blood’s pH level. And the pH of your urine has no effect on weight loss and no correlation with the risk of cancer or inflammation-related medical conditions.

Are there any health benefits of The Alkaline Diet?
There is some good news for fans of alkaline eating. The Alkaline Diet is a plant-based and discourages added sugar, so it may help your weight and health, although not because of the pH. People who eat balanced, plant-based diets tend to have lower risks of chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes. There is also research indicating that vegetarian diets may lead to lower risk for some types of cancer. However it is not clear yet if these lower cancer rates are due to diet alone, or other lifestyle factors that often go in tandem with plant-based diets (like not smoking).

As for weight… a diet rich in whole grains and fruits and veggies, and low in processed foods may be a good way to get or stay slim, however you’ll still need to pay attention to portion sizes, total calorie intake and exercise regularly. While Victoria, Beyoncé, Kelly and Jennifer may look better than ever, it’s not due to the alkalinity of the foods they’re eating.

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About the Author
Katherine Brooking, MS, RD

Katherine Brooking is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition education from Columbia University. She is dedicated to helping people have better health and live richer lives through sound nutrition and good lifestyle choices.

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