Alkaline Diets for Health — Fact or Fiction?
An idea that has generated much interest within the complementary medicine and holistic nutrition fields is that of the acid-base (or acid-alkaline) balance of the foods that we eat and the potential harm that a diet that is too acidic can cause. Are alkaline diets for health fact or is it just fiction?
The various compounds that result from the digestion of food and end up circulating through our bodies for eventual utilization and/or excretion will be either acidic or alkaline.
The theory behind an alkaline diet is that if we eat a lot of foods that are (net) acid forming in the body and few that are alkaline, we will create a level of what has been called low-grade metabolic acidosis, and this metabolic acidosis is linked by promoters of these diets to a range of negative health effects including increased tumor growth, reduced bone density and catabolism (breakdown) of muscle tissue.
It is not technically correct to say that the blood will become overly acidic as many claim, because blood pH, and cellular pH is one of the most tightly controlled mechanisms in the body. However, there may be significant general health effects from having a diet that is too acidic, and many of these stem from our need to buffer blood and cells that are potentially too acidic (bring them back to a normal pH range.)
Animal proteins and cereal grains contain sulphur, which contains amino acids methionine, cysteine and homocysteine. When oxidized, these form sulphate, a major contributor to blood acidity. In these foods, sulphate is balanced with acid-forming types of potassium, unlike potassium compounds found in fruits and vegetables that are considered to be alkaline forming.
Dairy products, especially milk, are often considered to be acid forming, and some authors maintain that they may be damaging to bone health. This is contradictory to the mainstream assumption that dairy intake improves bone density due to increased calcium intake. A 2011 review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition refutes these claims , however it offers the following conclusions:
Measurement of an acidic pH urine does not reflect metabolic acidosis or an adverse health condition.
The modern diet, and dairy product consumption, does not make the body acidic.
Alkaline diets alter urine pH but do not change systemic pH.
Net acid excretion is not an important influence of calcium metabolism.
Milk is not acid producing.
Dietary phosphate does not have a negative impact on calcium metabolism, which is contrary to the acid-ash hypothesis.
So, it is considered that an increased urinary acid load as a result of a high-acid diet does not increase systemic acid. Although this may not be purely due to the kidneys excreting the increased acid and may also result from increased internal buffering.
How We Regulate Blood pH
Our acid-base balance is finely regulated in the first instance via changes in respiratory rate and volume, where an increased excretion of carbon dioxide (CO2) serves to reduce net acidity.
The kidneys are our major system for buffering the blood and reducing net acidity. However, kidney function declines as we age and net acidity is considered to also rise over our lifespan.
Many experts maintain that the buffering capacity of the respiratory system and the kidneys is more than adequate to cater to changes in dietary acid intake. Others, however, point to other secondary buffers, including the breaking down bone of tissue to supply calcium (a highly basic compound) and the breakdown of muscle to free up glutamine (a highly basic amino acid and the most abundant amino in muscle tissue). These factors may result in lower levels of muscle mass, impaired recovery and reduced glutamine stores that may also play a role in reducing immunity and impairing gut health.
When blood pH is elevated, even fractionally, there may be additional effects of greater inflammation and increased insulin resistance, both of which are cofactors in the development of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other metabolic disorders.
Alkaline Diets For Health
Increased intake of fruits and vegetables in an alkaline diet may benefit bone health, reduce muscle wasting, as well as mitigate other chronic diseases such as hypertension and strokes. Increases in growth hormone with an alkaline diet may improve many outcomes from cardiovascular health to memory and cognition. Increased intracellular magnesium, which is required for the function of many enzyme systems, is another added benefit of the alkaline diet. Increased alkalinity may result in the added benefit for some chemotherapeutic agents that require a higher pH.
Surprisingly at the present time, there doesn’t seem to be enough evidence to recommend an alkaline diet for improving bone health and outcomes of alkaline diet studies do not seem to suggest an improvement in bone health or reductions in osteoporosis, however there are some tangible benefits suggested as a result of alkaline diets.
Who Does an Alkaline Diet Benefit?
Weight-loss and metabolic disorders
An alkaline diet may lower cortisol levels and reduce insulin resistance, a major causative factor in obesity, and reduce hypertension (high blood pressure) and other cardiac risk factors.
An alkaline diet may also be effective for removing excess uric acid from the body , thereby reducing symptoms for gout sufferers.
Muscle gain and performance
Small increases in muscle mass have also been observed in women following an alkaline diet and an alkaline diet rich in fruit and vegetables increases lean body mass in older adults. Reduced muscle performances has been demonstrated with chronic ingestion of a highly acid forming diet.
A more acidic diet is also considered formative for kidney stones, with lower acid diets and higher vegetable intake recommended for those at risk of kidney stones.If you follow or are considering following an alkaline diet, then Nuzest Clean Lean Protein is an ideal choice to add to your daily food intake. Our protein is made from golden pea protein isolate and is the world’s ONLY alkaline protein with a pH reading of 7.8!