There is confusion about what pH balance is, mainly caused by spurious analysis of food ash. To clarify the nature of pH balance, I will explain it in terms of its links with various diseases. This is the first of many articles exploring links between healthy eating and illness. Here, I will look at one nutrition study that investigates alkaline diet and various diseases.
What is pH Balance?
The report starts with a background to alkaline diet, and the role of pH balance in body tissues. It notes that pH balance has changed considerably over the last 10,000 years, with especially rapid changes during the last 200 years. There has also been a significant shift from more potassium than sodium, to the reverse.
It is generally accepted that agricultural humans today have a diet poor in magnesium and potassium as well as fiber and rich in saturated fat, simple sugars, sodium, and chloride as compared to the preagricultural period. This results in a diet that may induce metabolic acidosis which is mismatched to the genetically determined nutritional requirements
The report continues with explanations of the need for different pH values in different parts of the body. Minerals move around the body to provide the environment needed in specific locations. The net effect shows in urine, which may be acidic or alkaline depending on prevailing conditions. It notes that this can be influenced by diet, and the Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL) scores can be used to estimate pH balance.
The rest of the report, except the conclusions, covers the relationships between pH balance and various diseases.
Is pH Balance related to Bone Diseases?
The relationship between pH balance and bone health is very complicated. The report notes that specific studies have not shown alkaline diets to reduce osteoporosis. The suggestion is that the PRAL formula might be too general for relating pH balance with bone health. The role of phosphate significantly affects the availability of calcium for bone growth. Other significant influences come from vitamin D and the balance between sodium and potassium.
Is pH Balance related to Muscle Wasting Diseases?
An alkaline diet can reduce muscle wasting diseases including:
- Chronic obstructive lung disease
- Diabetic ketosis
- Kidney failure
Again, increased potassium intake is associated with better preservation of muscle mass in older people.
Is pH Balance related to Growth Hormone Deficiency?
This section of the report refers to alkalizing the diet through supplementing with bicarbonate or potassium citrate. The alkalizing effect appears to have a significant impact on improving growth hormone deficiency. Improving growth hormones also improves many other diseases. The report suggests that alkaline diet, may improve growth hormone deficiency and associated secondary diseases including:
- Cardiovascular health
Is pH Balance related to Back Pain?
Again, this section relies on studies involving supplementation rather than dietary changes, but it draws the same conclusion as with hormone growth: alkaline diet should help, but we need further specific studies based on food intake. It notes that an alkaline diet improves available magnesium which activates vitamin D, thus helping chronic back pain.
Is pH Balance related to Cancer Treatment?
The report notes that whilst many chemotherapy agents respond better in alkaline environments, this has only been achieved with chemical treatment using bicarbonate and other compounds.
There is no scientific literature establishing the benefit of an alkaline diet for the prevention of cancer at this time.
What has pH Balance to do with Diseases?
It is clear that pH balance can significantly improve many diseases, but we need to be clearer on several factors:
- There is insufficient evidence to clarify if an alkaline diet provides the same benefits as alkaline supplements
- Alkaline diet scoring systems, such as the pH balance diet score provided by PRAL, maybe too generalized for specific diseases
- Though it is likely that alkaline diet will reduce some effects of common chronic diseases, we need to assess growth media, as this significantly affects mineral content
So, an alkaline diet is a healthier diet, but measuring pH balance is not everything. My suggestion is to adopt a generally healthy alkaline diet, but also look at personal requirements for individual nutrients. I will work on improving pH balance diet scoring systems, and also investigate specific nutrients linked to various diseases.
Alkaline Diet and Diseases References
- Schwalfenberg, Gerry K. “The alkaline diet: is there evidence that an alkaline pH diet benefits health?.” Journal of environmental and public health 2012 (2012). doi: 10.1155/2012/727630.