The Alkaline diet has become a new health craze that is gradually gaining popularity amongst dieters. With the claims of weight loss, body detoxification, and protection from diseases including kidney stones, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, etc. It brings to question whether this is actually a miracle diet. For this article, I want to expose a common misconception about this diet that many people are unaware of.
The pH scale is a numeric scale used to specify the basicity and acidity of an aqueous solution (solution in which the solvent is water). pH levels range from 0 to 14, with 7 being neural. Numbers lower than 7 are considered acidic and numbers higher than 7 are considered basic (alkaline). All living organisms require tightly controlled pH levels throughout different parts of the body to survive. The normal range for blood pH levels in humans is between 7.35-7.45 (which is slightly alkaline). Any levels outside of this range, whether too acidic or too alkaline will result in death if not corrected.
What most people don’t realize is that different parts of the human body have various pH levels. When considering the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract), organs such as the esophagus (pH of 7.0), stomach (pH of 1.35-3.5), small intestine (pH of 6.0-7.4), and large intestine (pH of 5.7 to 6.7) all require different pH ranges to efficiently perform their physiological functions.
One the other hand, the pH levels of urine (4.6-8.0) various greatly depending on the type of foods and beverages that are consumed.
When the human body breaks down food, one of the waste products that are left behind can be called “ash”. This ‘ash’ can be either alkaline or acidic depending what foods are eaten. The acid ash is formed by phosphorus and sulfur (anions). Foods and beverages that produce acid ash include soft drinks, popcorn, beans, chocolate, meat, tea, nuts, wine, and rice. Alkaline ash is caused by intake of sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. These foods include fruits and vegetables.
Supporters of the alkaline diet claim that eating foods which leaves behind a lot of acidic ‘ash’ affects our body’s pH and leaves us vulnerable to disease. They advise eating a diet high in alkaline forming foods, to promote health and wellness.
Summing things up
Now that acid/alkaline ash has been explained, one point that I left out was that “ash” only affects the pH of the URINE. Urine doesn’t represent the pH of the blood or other parts of the body. As mentioned earlier, different parts of the body require various pH levels to function properly. Since pH levels are often testing using urine samples, many people wrongly associate it with blood pH levels.
I’m not saying that following an alkaline diet is wrong. I’m a firm believer that fruits and vegetables should be the major foundations of a healthy diet. But foods such as beans, whole grains, tea, and nuts that are in the acidic spectrum provide vast amounts of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants and should not be excluded in a healthy plantbased diet.
Fallingborg, J. (1999). Intraluminal pH of the human gastrointestinal tract. Danish medical bulletin, 46(3), 183-196.
Schwalfenberg, G. K. (2012). The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health? Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012, 727630. http://doi.org/10.1155/2012/727630.