The Alkaline Diet smells a bit fishy

Fresh vegetables
An alkaline diet? No, just a pile of healthy vegetables.

The Alkaline Diet is another of those fad diets which receive a lot of coverage on the Internet. There are a huge number of books, ebooks, websites, supplements and other self-help guides and treatments available, but does the hype add up? Well, health researchers say n, it does not.

What is the Acid / Alkaline Diet?

To add the confusion, many people are marketing “acid alkaline diets”, which seems a little contradictory – some foods are acidic, some alkaline. An acid-alkaline diet is surely pretty standard fare?

The alkaline diet advocates say that the big health problems today, everything from obesity through to heart disease,  arthritis, cancer and other chronic and deadly conditions, is caused by diets that are simply too acidic.

Too much meat, wheat, soda, coffee, alcohol and processed food causes raised acid levels in the body. All this acid causes ill-health. The solution is an alkaline diet.

Alkaline foods include fruits, vegetables and some grains, such as barley and millet. That all sounds healthier doesn’t it? Probably because it is…… these foods are also more likely to appear in Low Gi diets and other sensible ways of approaching food. In fact, a healthy, balanced diet includes more of these types of food, and less of the other.

“It’s good advice based on a bogus premise,” – Prof. David Heber, UCLA.

Professor David Heber really sums up the whole problem pretty well. The dietary advice given in the various alkaline cooking / diet books is all very good. However, what makes no sense is the whole premise that it is the acid in food that needs to be balanced. The problem is junk food and too many calories.

Blood pH does not change

The most important fact that is never mentioned is that the pH of the blood is regulated by the body and does not change. Therefore, a diet high in acidic foods is not going to make your body any more acidic. Out digestive systems have already worked out a way to keep this in balance without the need for a new diet ebook on your kindle.

Prof. Heber says that the alkaline diet is a “a misunderstanding of physiology” – or more likely no attempt to study the subject of the human body at all!

Is it a scam?


Any diet system that claims to improve health and aid weight loss that is not based on any real science is a scam. Yes, following the recipes in the books will be healthier for you than eating junk good. Yes, following the daily calorie guidelines in the books will help you to lose weight if you are overweight. But this has nothing to do with the pH of your blood.

There has indeed been some research on the topic, but the best conclusions are “more research is needed”. The problem is, even the researcher are just giving healthy people healthy food and then attempting to see an effect. It is extremely hard to prove anything, and as some scientists believe, that is because there is nothing much to actually prove.

An alkaline diet is not a magical cure for being overweight or unhealthy. A sensible balanced diet, regular exercise, limited stress and quality sleep are by far the most important health factors. So called pH supplements will only make your wallet thinner.

Further reading

The scientific community is strangely quiet on this topic.

Acid/alkaline ash diets: time for assessment and change. By Dwyer J, Foulkes E, Evans M, Ausman L. J Am Diet Assoc. 1985 Jul;85(7):841-5.  – This paper looks at the effects of different diets on the acidity of urine. Acidic urine may impact kidney health.

Alkaline diet claims get sour response from doctors” – LA Times article on alkaline diets by Chris Woolston. The above quotes first appear in this article.

Prof. David Heber’s page at UCLA


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