An appalling ‘alkaline’ diet plug in the Mail on Sunday

Does your diet pass the acid test? Forget Dukan and Atkins — these days, the A-list way to a flat tummy is ‘eating alkaline’.

Whatever you do, don’t read it. It’s excruciating, wince inducing drivel from start to finish. It eventually winds up with a plug for the book Honestly Healthy: Eat With Your Body In Mind, The Alkaline Way by Vicki Edgson and Natasha Corrett.

Actually, the whole article seems to be a plug for that book.

I’ll pick a few quotes for you.

Our bodies are naturally alkaline, but its functions produce acid. This stresses out your digestive system, causing you to gain weight and feel lethargic. In short, health fanatics claim ‘going alkaline’ is the fastest route to having more energy, a flat stomach and glowing skin.

If any health fanatics are making such claims, they don’t know the first thing about human biology. The blood is indeed slightly alkaline (I assume by ‘bodies’, they mean blood) but unless you are very seriously ill, the pH is tightly regulated by very well understood mechanisms. This is what is known as ‘acid-base homeostasis’.

‘I’ve been a fan of eating alkaline for years,’ says nutritionist Vicki Edgson. ‘It’s basically about getting the balance right between alkaline and acidic foods. We can eat both types, but we need to ensure we eat more alkaline foods than acidic ones.

Incidentally, according to the alkalarian cancer quack Robert O Young (also quoted in the article), lemons are alkaline.

‘Acidic foods are, as the name suggests, acid-forming in the body,’ explains Vicki. ‘They can cause weight gain, a bloated stomach, tiredness and other health problems. Whereas alkaline foods help you stay in shape and feel and look younger.

Yes, ‘acid-forming’. That’s how lemons are alkaline. Apparently they produce an alkaline ‘ash’ when you digest them. Which makes about as much sense as the rest of the contents of ‘Dr’ Robert O Young’s blog (more on that later).

The other good thing about this way of eating is that it’s entirely un-faddy: it doesn’t cut out food groups or involve counting calories.

That’s not strictly true – dairy foods and meat are frowned upon at best. Some versions of the alkaline diet are strictly vegetarian. This isn’t necessarily a problem – but it’s not quite correct to say that the diet doesn’t cut out food groups.

So, could you be acidic? Signs include weight gain, poor digestion, bloating, tiredness and skin problems (dryness or spots). If so, it may be time to give alkaline eating a go.

These claims are not only unsubstantiated, but make no sense whatsoever. If you were truly ‘acidic’, you would be suffering from acidosis and seriously ill in hospital. Weight gain would be the least of your problems. The concept of being ‘acidic’ as used here, is completely meaningless. According to Robert O Young, all sickness and disease (or “dis-ease”) is caused by acidity. He would argue that if you were suffering from any symptom of anything at all then it may be time to give alkaline eating a go.

In summary, it’s misleading pseudoscientific drivel and all in the form of quotes. I feel there would be no point complaining to the PCC. When I last contacted them – over an article which suggested that the Burzynski Clinic performs life-saving operations – they concluded that the article in question was not in breach of their Editors’ Code.

I think writing to the Mail again would be a waste of time. I’ve already tried to explain acid-base homeostasis to Justine Hancock (their Good Health editor), after this dire article last year.

I had no reply until I pointed out that I felt there may have been a breach of the PCC Editors’ Code – as well as a ludicrous title (How too much cheese and meat can make your body dangerously acidic), there was the incorrect assertion that carbon dioxide is one of the body’s main sources of alkaline material.

Astoundingly, she did not accept that this was an error, arguing that during acid-based homeostasis it is a main source of bicarbonate, which is a base. She somehow forgot that at the same time, it’s also a source of hydrogen ions. (For the non chemists among you, acidity is a measure of the activity of hydrogen ions.) Either she has no idea what she’s talking about or she’s using linguistic pedantry to argue black is white.

Carbon dioxide is a source of alkaline material in the same way that Bill Clinton did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

During that exchange, I also voiced my concerns about Robert O Young. The Daily Mail don’t seem to have taken any notice but Young certainly did  (see this post on his blog, published last Saturday). He quoted me:

I…was shocked to discover a number of UK companies promoting practices and diets based on his theories.

If you aren’t familiar with Young, his blog is well worth a read. Reading it is like stepping into another world. For example, he doesn’t believe HIV causes AIDS or that bacteria or viruses can reproduce in a healthy body. In fact, he doesn’t really believe in microbes at all. He thinks they are a result of our own cells transforming as a result of an acidic lifestyle.

As Vicki Edgson told the Mail on Sunday,

‘Our long-hours culture is causing many of us to become acidic. Tiredness and stress are very acid-forming. However, what is even more so is anger and bitterness.

‘It’s one thing to get a little stressed about daily chores, but if you hold on to feelings of anger and resentment for many months or years, you run the risk of becoming incredibly acidic, which can be detrimental to your health.’

Yes – even your thoughts can make you acidic.

It’s frightening stuff.

3 responses to “An appalling ‘alkaline’ diet plug in the Mail on Sunday

  1. veryslowwriter

    “weight gain, poor digestion, bloating, tiredness and skin problems (dryness or spots)”

    Gee, that sounds like me after I turned 60. Fortunately, being old doesn’t (necessarily) mean getting stupid. This “diet” is a load of…acidic bullsht.

  2. Who are you Josephine Jones? You haven’t made a thoughtful, considered or correct counter-argument yet. Can I ask what science background you have? It seems uneducated and rather extreme of you to effortlessly argue against everything alternative. And for the record, lemons do create an alkaline environment as ‘crazy’ as that sounds….about as crazy as much of the biochemistry we now know of once sounded I suppose.

  3. @Micro – don’t like the message, so you attack the messenger?

    Oh, and please explain how biologically you are able to alter a body’s Ph, given that our internal Ph is regulated at a cellular level in a very defined range (and outside of that range, we die)?

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