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Experts debate alkaline-diet fad benefits

December 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
What do Demi Moore, fashion designer Marc Jacobs, and NFL star Reggie Bush have in common? They all follow the alkaline diet. It's Hollywood's latest diet craze. It's based on the philosophy that feeling out of balance is rooted in your body chemistry.

It's the yin and yang of body chemistry: alkaline versus acidic. Our bodies are designed to maintain a natural balance. But new theories suggest what we eat is throwing it way off base.

Registered dietitian Erin Palinski says it's based on the philosophy that food affects body chemistry, or pH level. It's naturally alkaline at 7.4. The goal is to maintain that level.

"The people that promote the alkaline diet state that by being able to increase your intake of alkaline-forming foods, and decrease your intake of acidic foods, you can actually alter the chemistry in your body," said Palinski.

The diet promotes things like weight loss, improved immunity and even disease prevention.

Alkaline diet proponent Dr. Lindsey Duncan says our meals are increasingly acidic, and our bodies are paying the price.

"Cardiovascular disease. Depression, forgetfulness, poor mood, mind, memory," said Duncan.

To reverse this, Duncan recommends avoiding acidic foods like wheat, dairy, meat, fish, sugar, and caffeine. Instead, he says, eat pH balancers.

"Anything that's dark, leafy and green. The general rule of thumb is the more bitter your foods, the more alkaline," said Duncan.

Other examples include watermelon, almonds, oranges and apples.

Palinski says no research supports whether food can affect your pH level.

"There's been no human medical research studies that have proven any of the claims of the alkaline diet," said Palinski. "Our body really naturally, unless we have some kind of health problem, is going to keep our pH within the optimal level."

Palinski says the diet can also be restrictive, and some take it to the extreme.

"This can make the body too alkaline and bring it outside of the optimal range, and that can actually have potentially deadly side effects," said Palinski.

Duncan says balance is the key.

"The proper ratio of food is 70 to 75 percent alkaline and 25 to 30 percent acid," said Duncan.

Some alkaline dieters test their pH daily with strips, which are available at a drugstore.

As always, it's important to inform your doctor on any diet that you're trying.