• Bill Gaylor

3 Reasons For And Against the Alkaline Diet

This week we talk about all things the Alkaline Diet. On first hearing, it sounds a bit peculiar or as Tom said he thought about eating batteries! In this post, I'm going to go into 3 big points for and against but if you want the full picture and want to hear us essentially tombstone this diet in record time then listen down below for the full podcast episode.

3 Reasons FOR the Alkaline Diet



1.) Encourages Eating More Fruit & Veg


This one doesn't need much explaining. Let's ignore the fact that they are telling you to eat it due to its health-boosting alkaline effects and strip it back to basics. Fruit and vegetables are essential for improved overall health. Straight from the NHS (National Health Service UK) here are some key points on the importance of getting your "5 a day."

Fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamin C and potassium.
They're an excellent source of dietary fibre, which can help to maintain a healthy gut and prevent constipation and other digestion problems. A diet high in fibre can also reduce your risk of bowel cancer.
They can help to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer.
Fruit and vegetables contribute to a healthy, balanced diet.
Fruit and vegetables taste delicious and there's so much variety to choose from.

2.) NO Alcohol


Me putting this as a positive is perhaps controversial but from a blanket health perspective, this is a good thing. Don't get me wrong I enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage however cutting it out entirely would have some health benefits.

  • Lose weight? Drinking alcohol will not inherently make you gain weight as this comes down to the simple calories in vs calories out however alcohol can be quite a calorific especially when most of us have more than just 1 or 2 so cutting this out could lead to lower total calorie intake.

  • Improved sleep. You may think "Oh after a few beers I pass right out" which could be the case however the quality of that sleep is what's affected. Alcohol can disrupt the two most essential parts of our sleep; Slow Wave Sleep, which is the part that physically refreshes us the most, and REM sleep, which is the part that helps us learn and remember.

  • Impede recovery. Due to dehydrating effects and poor quality sleep you are in fact causing harm to the recovery process. Had a big gym day? Think twice before getting on the booze as you'll seriously impede the recovery process.

  • Potentially save money? This is completely down to individuals however I'm sure they'll be those of you reading who spend a lot of money on weekends downtown!

I want to make it clear I'm not saying don't drink I'm just pointing out potential benefits of not drinking and in turn offering a potential pro to this diet.

3.) Lose Weight?


As stated earlier any diet can aid in weight loss with the right planning and ensuring that calorie deficit however the foods that the alkaline diet promotes could lead to you eating less without much tracking. Due to it's wholesome, high volume and high fibre foods you may, in fact, feel fuller while consuming fewer calories.

3 Reasons AGAINST the Alkaline Diet


This portion of the article is going to be essentially a debunking of the diets common health-boosting claims.


1.) Cutting Out Big Food Groups: Deficiencies


With this diet, you are cutting out a large number of foods. We've said time and time again that education is crucial and that without it some of these more restrictive diets can lead to nutritional deficiencies. An example of this would be cutting out all red meat could lead to low levels of iron. Of course, there are plenty of plant-based alternatives or even multivitamins but if someone is not "clued up" and doesn't actively look for foods to replace those they've just eliminated then yes we could lead to said deficiencies.


2.) "Will help in preventing osteoporosis"


Of course, if this were true it'd be in the pros section however the science just doesn't back it up. The claim is that western acid-forming diets cause a loss in bone mineral density. Let's look at why this is wrong.

  • The theory ignores kidney function. Koeppen BM. The kidney and acid-base regulation. Adv Physiol Educ. 2009 Dec;33(4):275-81. doi: 10.1152/advan.00054.2009. PMID: 19948674.

  • Ignores one of the main drivers of osteoporosis. Protein Collagen loss. This is often caused by things such as age, excessive sugar intake and tobacco.

Furthermore:

Modern diets have been suggested to increase the systemic acid load and net acid excretion. In response, alkaline diets and products are marketed to avoid or counteract this acid, help the body regulate its pH to prevent and cure disease. The objective of this systematic review was to evaluate causal relationships between dietary acid load and osteoporosis using Hill's criteria.
Systematic review and meta-analysis. We systematically searched published literature for randomized intervention trials, prospective cohort studies, and meta-analyses of the acid-ash or acid-base diet hypothesis with bone-related outcomes, in which the diet acid load was altered, or an alkaline diet or alkaline salts were provided, to healthy human adults. Cellular mechanism studies were also systematically examined.
Conclusions
A causal association between dietary acid load and osteoporotic bone disease is not supported by evidence and there is no evidence that an alkaline diet is protective of bone health.

Fenton TR, Tough SC, Lyon AW, Eliasziw M, Hanley DA. Causal assessment of dietary acid load and bone disease: a systematic review & meta-analysis applying Hill's epidemiologic criteria for causality. Nutr J. 2011 Apr 30;10:41. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-10-41. PMID: 21529374; PMCID: PMC3114717.

3.) "Helps Fight Against Cancer"


So the theory is is that cancer only grows in acidic environments. Some key points to know about this questionable claim.

  • Food does not significantly impact blood ph levels.

  • Cancer can grow in alkaline environments

  • Tumours DO grow faster in acidic environments however NOTE tumours actually create this acidity themselves.

To further put this claim into question see below for a systematic review

Abstract
Objectives: To evaluate the evidence for a causal relationship between dietary acid/alkaline and alkaline water for the aetiology and treatment of cancer. Design: A systematic review was conducted on published and grey literature separately for randomised intervention and observational studies with either varying acid-base dietary intakes and/or alkaline water with any cancer outcome or for cancer treatment. Outcome measures: Incidence of cancer and outcomes of cancer treatment. Results: 8278 citations were identified, and 252 abstracts were reviewed; 1 study met the inclusion criteria and was included in this systematic review. No randomised trials were located. No studies were located that examined dietary acid or alkaline or alkaline water for cancer treatment. The included study was a cohort study with a low risk of bias. This study revealed no association between the diet acid load with bladder cancer (OR=1.15: 95% CI 0.86 to 1.55, p=0.36). No association was found even among long-term smokers (OR=1.72: 95% CI 0.96 to 3.10, p=0.08). Conclusions: Despite the promotion of the alkaline diet and alkaline water by the media and salespeople, there is almost no actual research to either support or disprove these ideas. This systematic review of the literature revealed a lack of evidence for or against diet acid load and/or alkaline water for the initiation or treatment of cancer. Promotion of alkaline diet and alkaline water to the public for cancer prevention or treatment is not justified.

Fenton TR, Huang T. Systematic review of the association between dietary acid load, alkaline water and cancer. BMJ Open. 2016 Jun 13;6(6):e010438. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010438. PMID: 27297008; PMCID: PMC4916623.

Final Points. We, of course, go into more detail on the podcast and discuss things like the well-branded "alkaline water" and dive into other claims and essentially just throw more science at it. On the surface, this diet does make some healthy recommendations but the promotion of things like expensive alkaline water to help prevent certain chronic diseases is very questionable. Have you or anyone you know tried this diet? Get in touch and let us know how you got on. Good or bad we'd love to hear it.


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