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What Is the Alkaline Diet? Review, Research, Alkaline Food List, and More – Everyday Health

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Followers and authors of the many alkaline food lists, guides, and recipe books about the alkaline diet say it can treat diseases and chronic conditions, including cancer and kidney disease.

From a scientific perspective, these claims aren’t realistic, says Adrienne Youdim, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles. But, she says, the alkaline food lists tend to be healthy, and when you look at eating approaches like the widely studied and beneficial Mediterranean diet, you can reasonably say that the focus on these foods is a healthy approach.

Despite the alkaline diet having been widely studied, there aren’t any definitive studies suggesting that this approach can have an effect on cancer — one of the biggest draws of the diet. Fitzgibbon says that the cancer treatment theory is based on the claim that cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment. And while that is true in a lab setting, it’s nearly impossible to alter cells in a way that creates a less acidic environment in the body, she says. Here is what research has found about the alkaline diet and several chronic health conditions:

Bone Health There are claims that the alkaline diet can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. The theory is referred to as the “acid-ash hypothesis of osteoporosis,” which states that eating an acid-rich diet, such as the Western diet, can erode the bones and lead to osteoporosis by increasing calcium in the urine and reducing calcium in the body. But the theory doesn’t hold up. One review noted that it seems like acid-producing diets plus low calcium intake could lead to bone issues, but if calcium levels are high, eating an acidic diet might even be protective.

Another review concluded that there is no evidence that an acidic diet can lead to bone disease, and there is no evidence that it can protect bones either.

Cancer Prevention There was one study that found alkaline diets may have a protective benefit against hormone receptor negative–breast cancer, but most of the related research has been inconclusive.

 Most results, however, do point to one dietary measure that may reduce breast cancer risk: eating less meat and more fruits and veggies, as many researchers have reported.

The AICR does not support claims about cancer and the alkaline diet, saying that the acidity and alkalinity of foods aren’t important when it comes to human body chemistry. Instead, the AICR says that eating a largely plant-based diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (without worrying about alkalinity) is a healthy approach that can help lower your risk of cancer and chronic diseases. So the alkaline diet might be a good approach for people fighting cancer, but not for the reasons given by fans of it, as one study noted.

Chronic Kidney Disease People with chronic kidney disease may also benefit from focusing on alkaline foods, because too much protein is hard on the kidneys. In one review article, the author argued that by reducing acid load to the kidneys through a low-protein diet with an emphasis on plant proteins, you may be able to slow kidney disease progression and improve kidney function.

 Other research noted that an alkaline diet slows down the rate at which the kidneys’ blood-filtering systems decline.

Heart Health A research review found that eating more alkaline foods, such as fruits and veggies, may help reduce the risk of hypertension and stroke.

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