The Myth of the Alkaline Diet
I often see cancer patients who are drinking alkaline water and focusing a significant amount of their time and energy on alkaline foods. Is this an effective diet in the fight against cancer? The short answer is no and any observed positive effects have nothing to do with the foods being alkaline. Let me explain why this is so.
In the early 20th century, it was observed that cancer cells could not grow in alkaline environments. There are a number of metabolic reasons why this is so, and this theory is very effective in a petri dish. The problem is that this theory simply does not apply to our bodies. The pH is a measure of how acidic or basic (alkaline) a liquid is. You cannot change the pH of your blood enough to influence cancer. To understand why, you need to look at the biochemistry of the blood.
Our blood is buffered, which means that it is absolutely full of molecules that ensure there are no variations in the pH of the blood. The body spends a substantial amount of energy keeping the pH of the blood within a very narrow range. Every single protein in your entire body is designed to work at a very specific pH. If there is any deviation from this optimal pH, then the proteins will cease to function properly. In other words, if you were able to make your blood significantly more basic it would very quickly result in kidney failure, respiratory failure and ultimately death.
Our cells have been adapting to a very narrow pH range for millions of years and there are many metabolic reasons for this. When you drink alkaline water and eat alkaline foods, it does not make your blood alkaline. When you increase consumption of alkaline food and water it will make your urine and saliva more basic. The reason that these fluids become more basic is because your body is working hard to excrete these basic molecules so that your blood pH remains the same. In other words, if your urine or saliva is more basic this does not mean that your blood pH has changed to any significant degree.
Any positive studies relating to the alkaline diet have nothing to do with the foods being alkaline. When you look at the list of “alkaline foods,” it consists mostly of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes with very small amounts of meat. These are all very healthy foods that are rich in nutrients. It is this high nutrient content that is giving patients health benefits. The high nutrient content is completely unrelated to the alkaline nature of these foods.
When designing an ideal diet plan for cancer patients, the first goal is making sure they are getting adequate nutrients because the cells will have increased metabolic demands while fighting cancer. The second goal is making sure that they are avoiding foods that are rich in sugar. Very often this diet will consist of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. No one disputes that these foods are helpful when combating cancer but it is clear that this positive effect is not due to them being alkaline.
Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology.
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