Celebrity Kate Hudson flaunted her abs at the Golden Globes on 10 January, saying that she stays slim and healthy by following what's called an alkaline diet.
Her abs were even named “the real winner of this year's Golden Globes.”
So how'd she get them?
“I live by a rulebook of eating alkaline — no meat, no dairy, no gluten, I try to stay away from sugar,” she told People Magazine.
The idea behind the alkaline diet is that certain foods, like meat, wheat, refined sugar, and processed foods, fire up acid production in your body, which can cause numerous health problems like bone loss, muscle loss, and back pain.
By avoiding these acid-producing foods and sticking to more alkaline (nonacidic) promoting foods, you can maintain a healthy blood pH level, lose weight, and ward off these adverse health affects — at least that's what alkaline proponents would have you think.
Not so fast
If this sounds odd, you're right. In fact, it's more than odd — it's bogus.
What you eat has little affect on the acid concentrations in your blood, which hovers around a pH level of 7.4 — neither extremely acidic (pH level of 0) or basic (pH level of 14).
Diet will, undoubtedly, impact the acidity in other parts of your body, namely urine, but your kidneys work hard to maintain a steady blood pH level.
For example, one small 2002 study found that a diet high in protein with limited carbohydrates had a strong impact on urinary chemistry and acidity, but very little change in blood chemistry or pH.
But don't write off the alkaline diet just yet.
While the reasoning might be baseless, the foods you eat on this diet actually make up a relatively well-balanced meal plan, and may, in fact, help promote certain health benefits — but not for the reason that alkaline proponents think.
Why it works
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, LondonFlickr/Ewan Munru
As Hudson mentioned, the alkaline diet is “mostly to completely vegetarian.”
It focuses on eating fresh fruits and vegetables while completely eliminating food that can prompt allergies like dairy, wheat, eggs, peanuts, and walnuts. Also, it strongly limits salt, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol intake.
Studies have found, time and again, that fresh, fiber-packed fruits and vegetables beat packaged, processed foods any day when it comes to feeling full, losing weight, and getting nutrition.
But it's not because of the acid, or lack of, that fruits and vegetables help the body produce. It's because of the vitamins, minerals, and pigments you get in plants that you simply can't find inside of a box.
Here are some of the proven health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables:
* Foods like kale, spinach, and zucchini, for example, are rich with the pigments lutein and seaxanthin that researchers found may help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration — the leading cause of vision loss affecting more than 15 million Americans today, according to the American Society of Retina Specialists.
* Other proven benefits include controlling or preventing hypertension, lowering the risk of heart disease, and shedding pounds.
False vs. true claims
But what about those other problems the alkaline diet claims to help prevent, like bone loss, muscle loss, and back pain?
According to a detailed analysis of the medical literature: “There is no substantial evidence that this [diet] improves bone health or protects from osteoporosis.”
On the other hand, a three-year study found that a diet rich in potassium, which can be found in many fruits and vegetables, helped preserve muscle mass in a group of men and women older than 65 years.
And as for back pain: Alkalizing minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium have been shown to help ease back pain. You can find these types of minerals either as supplements or in certain fruits and vegetables.
Ultimately, the alkaline diet — as well as many other plant-based diets — promotes healthy eating, and a healthy body will inevitably follow as a result. But don't be fooled into thinking the acidity of your blood has anything to do with it.
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