“Acids and baseless” (Alkaline diet)

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The alkaline diet proposes to alter a person’s pH through food intake, making for denser bones, leaner muscle, and a healthier heart. Following the diet might produce these benefits, but it has nothing to do with your body’s pH level.

Various forms of the diet list alleged acidic and alkaline foods, with the healthier ones being heavily in the latter group. Hence, sticking to the diet might result in weight loss and muscle gain, but not in pH alternation. Your body has the same pH balance as Big Mac devotee Don Gorske and a raw food fruitarian.

It has been suggested that promoters of this diet use “acid” and “alkaline” because these terms are among the few middle school science words that almost everyone remembers. But most of us fail to remember much beyond that, which is why it’s easy to get away with this diet’s mistaken claims.

So, a little refresher course. A pH level measures a substance’s acidity and alkalinity. A pH of 0 means completely acidic, while a pH of 14 is all alkaline. A pH of 7 is neutral. Blood has slight alkalinity, with a pH between 7.35 and 7.45. Stomachs are acidic to enable the breakdown of food, and generally have a pH of about 3.5. Diet proponents are fond of pointing out that urine changes depending on what is eaten, but this applies to nowhere else in the body. Eating acidic or alkaline foods has no impact on stomach or blood pH.

Another half-truth is that cancer cells die in an alkaline environment. They do, but so does almost every other cell type. Jacking up one’s alkaline content to avoid dying of cancer would work because you would croak from healthy cell loss instead.

Many of the alkaline diet lists include obviously acidic food like citrus fruits in the alkaline column. Meanwhile, preservatives like sodium benzoate are listed as acidic, despite being slightly alkaline. The main point here is the proponents’ carelessness with the truth. More important than the foods being listed incorrectly is than none of them will change the body’s pH level. If your blood changes its acidity or alkalinity, it is quickly changed back to normal. For this, we should be thankful. Without the proper pH balance, enzymes would be unable to carry out needed chemical reactions.

For a simple example of how this works, hold your breath until you pass out. If I had a lawyer, he or she would likely advise me against promoting this, but I don’t, so take a deep breath and hold it. This will force carbon dioxide to accumulate in your bloodstream, turning your blood acidic. When you pass out, you will resume breathing again and the pH balance will return.  

Like many other items, this balance is the key. With our body temperature, 98 degrees is ideal and going 10 degrees in either direction means death. With pH, any change greater than .5 is likewise fatal. The difference is that no one is hawking a diet with the stated goal of substantially raising or lowing one’s body temperature.

If the alkaline diet worked as advertised, the crazy protein overload favored by bodybuilders would be fatal. They gorge on protein-infused muffins, chocolate bars, and shakes, pumping in more protein than their muscle-bound bodies can store. The excess protein is converted to an organic acid that, if permitted to stay, would sink the pH to dangerous levels. To keep this from happening, calcium leaves the bones and neutralizes the organic acid.

To see the results of the body losing its ability to maintain its pH balance, visit your nearest dialysis machine. Damaged kidneys are unable to regulate a bloodstream’s acidity. This means vital chemical reactions stop, toxins concentrate, and the result is usually death. If the alkaline diet worked, it would be one of the few times that another alternative medicine staple, the detox, would be possible and desirable.

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