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Does the alkaline diet stack up?

 

Joel spoke to the House of Wellness about the alkaline diet and why it’s not a panacea – see the link.

 

The alkaline diet is marketed to improve health, reduce inflammation and cure a whole range of chronic health conditions. Sounds pretty nifty, right? But scratch the surface, and you’ll find that the diet is not based on credible or even plausible science. 

 

Proponents of the alkaline diet encourage fewer protein-rich foods and increase our fruits and vegetable intake.

 

Nevertheless, the cornerstone of any good diet is fruit and vegetables, so that advice at least is not daft.

 

This diet is highly restrictive and is not backed by science. There have been no clinical trials to date to test the validity of this diet. Yet, there are a range of health claims that are made about this diet. There are countless red flags with this diet. 

 

This is because the human body has stringent mechanisms to maintain its pH – and an example of this is through our renal (kidney) and respiratory (lung) systems, which involve eliminating waste through urine, saliva, sweat and gasses via our breath. Therefore, it cannot be influenced by our diet. 

 

So while increasing the amount of plant-based foods in your diet is positive, for most people, there’s no need to restrict healthy foods, use supplements and alkalise your water, or remove whole food groups from your diet. Taking alkalising supplements and water will affect your hip pocket. 

 

However, increasing fruit and vegetable intake is a big plus. But, based on data from the last National Nutrition Survey, Australians drop the ball when it comes to hitting their fruit and veggie targets. So, that’s a good outcome, despite the diet’s overall shortcomings.  

 

Many fad diets encourage us to cut out whole food groups such as grains, legumes and dairy foods. This can be unnecessarily restrictive. Unless you have a recognised allergy or intolerance, you do not need to avoid dairy, grains, or legumes. These are all nutritious foods, and without them, it’s likely your diet will be low in essential nutrients like calcium, B vitamins, and fibre. And not to mention, these foods are downright delicious. 

 

The alkaline diet looks to cut out foods such as red meats, fish, poultry, dairy, sugar, grains, and distilled water. These ‘high acidic’ foods are suggested to lead to an imbalance in metabolic processes. But, this just not true. 

 

Eliminating whole foods can predispose us to nutritional deficiencies. For example, red meat and whole grains are sources of iron, so a reduction in these foods can lead to an iron deficiency. This is just one example of a deficiency, which can have adverse outcomes such as low mood, fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath and headaches. 

 

Another potentially dangerous outcome is the development of osteoporosis. Dairy foods contain the most bioavailable form of calcium. While you don’t have to include dairy in the diet, you must compensate by eating a range of calcium-rich foods. 

 

Lastly, overly restrictive diets can lead to poor relationships with food. This can predispose adherents to eating disorders and disordered eating patterns. And this is deeply troubling.