With all the diets out there, it’s likely you’ve heard of the alkaline diet. This diet claims to improve health by altering the pH level of your blood. Read below to learn more about this diet, how it’s important in weight loss, and what foods and supplements can help support this type of eating routine.
What is the alkaline diet?
The alkaline diet claims that by altering the pH level in your blood, you can reduce your risk of cancer and improve weight loss outcomes (1). The normal pH of blood is already a bit basic at around 7.35 to 7.45 (2). Any compound with a pH higher than 7 is alkaline or basic.
The theory behind the alkaline diet is that certain foods cause your body to produce acid, which produces an acidic environment in which cancer cells can thrive. Therefore, by eating foods that are low in acid, you can help increase the alkaline nature of the blood and make it hard for cancer cells to survive (3). However, research only shows what an alkaline diet does to cancer cells in a petri dish, so it’s unclear how this diet would impact actual tumors in the body (1,3,4).
How is the alkaline diet important for weight loss?
The alkaline diet is important for weight loss, but experts say its effective role in weight loss has nothing to do with changing the pH of the blood. This is because you can change the pH of the urine and saliva by eating less acidic foods, but it will not change the pH of the blood (3). The aspects of the alkaline diet that make it helpful in weight loss include (1,3):
- Eating lots of vegetables and fruits
- Drinking lots of water
- Cutting back on sugar
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Reducing intake of meat and processed foods
- Lowering intake of high-fat dairy products
Basically, it includes all the tenets of what one would consider a healthy, balanced diet. And experts say that the health benefits of the alkaline diet come from the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber, not the change in blood pH it claims it produces. A 2019 study shows that a high dietary acid load content can cause higher blood fat, or triglyceride levels, as well as higher prevalence of obesity (5). Therefore, following an alkaline diet could help improve such health markers.
What foods and supplements support the alkaline diet?
Foods and supplements that support the alkaline diet include the following (1,4,6):
- Multi-mineral supplement
Common healthy foods such as whole grains, nuts, beans, and lentils, as well as lean proteins are technically acidic and would not be encouraged on the alkaline diet (4). However, nutrition experts suggest that such foods can and should be part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Bottom line on the alkaline diet
The alkaline diet can help improve health and support weight loss in some people by increasing their intake of fruits and vegetables and reducing intake of processed foods. However, experts report that there is limited proof that this diet improves chronic disease risk or that it changes the pH of the blood. Not to mention, that by limiting dairy, nuts, beans, lentils, whole grain, and lean protein intake, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies long-term (7).
Therefore, it may be best to just follow some of the tenets of the alkaline diet, and then include the healthy foods aforementioned to ensure a well-rounded healthy diet that you can maintain long-term.
- The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (September 2018) “The alkaline diet: what you need to know.” https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/the-alkaline-diet--what-you-need-to-know.h18-1592202.html
- Lewis, III, M.D., J. L. (last modified January 2020) “Overview of Acid-Base Balance.” Merck Manual Consumer Version, https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/acid-base-balance/overview-of-acid-base-balance#:~:text=Blood%20is%20normally%20slightly%20basic,a%20base)%20in%20the%20blood.
- Marengo, LDN, R.D., K. (last medically reviewed January 18, 2021) “Does the alkaline diet work?” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324271#research
- Alice, R.D. (July 8, 2010; updated on November 2, 2020) “The Alkaline Diet: Another Cancer and Diet Claim.” https://www.aicr.org/resources/blog/another-cancer-and-diet-claim-the-alkaline-diet/
- Abbasalizad Farhangi, M., Nikniaz, L., & Nikniaz, Z. (2019). “Higher dietary acid load potentially increases serum triglyceride and obesity prevalence in adults: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis.” PloS one, 14(5), e0216547. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0216547
- König, D., Muser, K., Dickhuth, H. H., Berg, A., & Deibert, P. (2009). “Effect of a supplement rich in alkaline minerals on acid-base balance in humans.” Nutrition journal, 8, 23. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-8-23
- Isaac, R.D., K. (accessed January 19, 2021) “Do you need an alkaline diet?” https://www.dairynutrition.ca/facts-fallacies/health-concerns/do-you-need-an-alkaline-diet