The alkaline diet, whose celebrity fans reportedly include Gywneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Victoria Beckham, is based on the idea that modern diets cause our body to produce too much acid. The theory is that excess acid in the body is turned into fat, leading to weight gain. High acidity levels have also been blamed on conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, tiredness, and kidney and liver disorders.
The diet recommends cutting back on acid-producing foods such as meat, wheat and other grains, refined sugar, dairy products, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods in favour of “alkaline foods”, which reduce the body’s acidity levels. This translates into plenty of fruit and vegetables. The idea is that an alkaline diet helps maintain the body’s acidity at healthy levels. There are different versions of the alkaline diet. Some followers adopt the “80/20 rule”, consisting of a diet based on 80% fruit and veg and 20% grains and protein.
Originally developed to help prevent kidney stones and urine infections by using diet to adjust the acidity levels in the urine, there is little evidence to support the diet’s more recent health claims. The weight loss observed among followers is more likely to be the result of eating plenty of fruit and vegetables and cutting down on sugar, alcohol and processed foods, which is standard healthy weight loss advice.
The diet contains plenty of good healthy eating advice, such as cutting down on meat, avoiding sugar, alcohol and processed foods, and eating more fruit and veg, nuts, seeds and legumes. This means you will be cutting out foods you may normally eat and replacing them with healthier choices, which will also reduce your calorie intake.
Your body regulates its acidity levels, regardless of diet. When cutting down on dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, you need to find other calcium substitutes, as cutting out an entire food group is never a good idea. Getting to grips with what you can and can’t eat on the diet can be time consuming, particularly in the beginning.
The theory of the alkaline diet is that eating certain foods can help maintain the body’s ideal pH balance (acidity levels) to improve overall health. But the body maintains its pH balance regardless of diet. The diet lacks evidence, and some versions that advise cutting out entire food groups should be avoided. The more balanced versions of the diet provide variety and include all the food groups. If you are going to try the alkaline diet, choose a balanced plan, stick to it to the letter, and stay clear of supplements and other diet-related gimmicks.