Following on from a recent post about the science of the acid alkaline diet, I have found more research on dietary acid and alkalinity intake. These papers conclude that it appears beneficial for the health of our bones to eat more alkaline foods.
The acid alkaline diet advocates a diet high in alkali foods and low in acid foods. Typically in a ratio of 80:20 or 75:25. Foods rich in both potassium, bicarbonate are considered alkali foods. Looking at an alkaline acid diet food chart helps determine what we want to eat more and less of in our diet.
However in our Western diets there are few foods that are good sources of both potassium and bicarbonate. The scientific literature suggests that eating alkali foods promotes healthy bones and can play a positive role proactively combating osteoporosis. There are a variety of other claims made for the alkaline acid diet from re-energizing your body to preventing migraine headaches.
10 million people are estimated to have osteoporosis in the U.S. today. A further 34 million are estimated to have low bone mass placing them at increased risk. The costs associated with the disease are estimated to have exceeded $20 billion.
An acid alkaline diet is possibly a way to protect people from bone resorption, the process by which bone is broken down. Not only would there be the beneficial effects to personal health but also there could potentially be a massive reduction in health care costs associated with osteoporosis - simply by following an acid alkaline diet.
It is widely believed that our modern western diet is very different from that which early humans once consumed. Sodium and potassium intake in pre-agricultural days was 600 mg/day and 7000 mg/day respectively. Those figures are vastly different these days, 4000 mg/day and 2500 mg/day respectively. Without even thinking about it, our ancestors followed an acid alkaline diet. Perhaps not having green alkaline drinks but just through their regular diet long ago.
What most people would consider healthy eating comes close to what the acid alkaline diet proposes. Whereas consuming a diet high in meat, dairy, breads, sugar, preservatives could be considered an acid diet. The typical westerner now-a-days consumes an acid diet.
Increasing dietary vegetable intake, following an acid alkaline diet, to about ten servings per day has been proven to have positive effects on health. Even without scientific proof of the acid alkaline diet, most people would likely agree that eating more vegetables would have a beneficial effect upon our health.
Reasons to follow an alkaline acid diet
Evidence suggests that a typical western diet has an overall acidifying effect upon the body. Following the acid alkaline diet is one way we can attempt to reduce and neutralize the effects of an acid diet. This means we can get our body back into balance and gain wide ranging health benefits. Discussed above are the beneficial effects the acid alkaline diet has upon our bone health.
The scientific literature supports eating more healthily. The dietary advice promotes similar food types to that of alkaline diet supporters.
Evidence supporting the alkaline acid diet
Eating a typical Western diet which is low in fruit and vegetables while being high in protein has an acidifying effect upon our bodies. This has been proven in various scientific studies, cited below. The effect of this kind of acid diet has is detrimenal to our bones.
In a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, following a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and low in sweets and snacks, similar to an acid alkaline diet, it was shown that the amount of urinary calcium excretion decreased by about 25%. One theory is that the acid alkaline diet allows more calcium to be conserved for bone retention.
When we digest our food and drink, it is broken down and leaves either an acid or an alkaline "ash". Diets high in protein but low in fresh fruit and vegetables generally produce an acid ash. Our bodies have to remain in an slightly alkaline pH balance. So something needs to be done about the acidity of our bodies.
Getting rid of excess dietary acid through going to the toilet seems as obvious as it does logical. However even though this is what happens, there is a catch. Our kidneys cannot deal with any pH below 5. So if our acidic ash is lower than this the body has to dilute it, in other words, make it less acidic.
Alkaline compounds are required to reduce the pH of acidic ash in our bodies. Fruit and vegetables are an excellent source of alkaline ash themselves. Not eating enough fresh fruit and vegetables means our bodies may turn to our bones in an effort to dilute the body's acidic ash. Supplementing diets with chemical salts is another way to counteract the negative effect an acid ash has on our bones.
A seperate study shows that by increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in the diet, the amount of calcium excreted via urine is reduced by about 30%. This tells us that fighting an acid diet by increasing the amount of fresh produce we eat is an effective way to counteract the breaking down of our own bones.
Advice regarding alkaline acid diets
Some studies suggest it is not 100% clear whether the beneficial effects upon bone retention are due specifically to the alkali properties of fruit and vegetables consumed. Others are clear in their support for increasing the alkalinity of our diets. This is easily accomplished by consuming fruit alkaline drinks.
The beneficial effects could perhaps be due to other nutrients present. What is interesting to me is that it doesn't overly concern me if the acid alkaline diet is good because of the alkaline content of fruit and vegetables or due to their other nutritional values. The foods championed by the acid alkaline diet have been proven to have positive effects on our health in a variety of areas. That is why I am continuing to move away from an acid diet and follow the acid alkaline diet.
Susan A. Lanham-New - The Balance of Bone Health: Tipping the Scales in Favor of Potassium-Rich, Bicarbonate-Rich Foods - American Society for Nutrition J. Nutr. 138:172S-177S, January 2008
Lawrence J. Appel et al. A Clinical Trial of the Effects of Dietary Patterns on Blood Pressure - The New England Journal of Medicine Volume 336:1117-1124 April 17, 1997 Number 16
Uriel S. Barzel and Linda K. Massey Excess Dietary Protein Can Adversely Affect Bone - The Journal of Nutrition Vol. 128 No. 6 June 1998, pp. 1051-1053