Alkaline Diet Weight Loss Review: Does It Actually Work?

Woman with an alkaline smoothie

Losing weight and looking good tend to be incredibly prominent goals in our society.

That isn’t too surprising, as so many people actively struggle with their weight and are trying to find ways to get slimmer that actually work.

To make matters worse, there are so many different diets and lifestyles that are supposed to help with weight loss but simply don’t for most people.

This includes fad diets like the 3 Day Military Diet and the Cruise Control Diet, systems like the AdvoCare 24 Day Challenge and even products like Thrive patches and Atrafen.

This post focuses on one specific example, the alkaline diet. In particular, the post aims to provide an alkaline diet weight loss review – looking at what the alkaline diet truly is and whether it works for weight loss.

At the same time, I’m going to take a look at the science behind the diet and its implications for overall health.

What is the Alkaline Diet?

Alkaline diet test strips

In some ways, the alkaline diet is a misnomer – because the term doesn’t apply to one diet. Instead, it refers to a collection of different diets, all with the same focus on pH and being alkaline. This is why the diets are sometimes called pH diets as well.

Now, pH is a form of measurement that looks at how acidic or basic (alkaline) something is. A pH of 0 is highly acidic, while a pH of 7 is neutral and a pH of 14 is highly basic.

As a general rule, items on either end of that scale tend to be dangerous for health, especially in large quantities.

For example, bleach tends to be around pH 13 (although, this is somewhat brand specific), while vinegar is around pH 2 (1).

People following the alkaline diet argue that the natural pH of the human body is around 7.4 (2).The idea has also been very popular among celebrities, as the Daily Mail reports

Additionally, they argue that eating too many acidic foods is thought to lead to acidosis and other health problems.

Because of this, the diet is designed so that you are eating food that promotes alkaline, rather than forming acid. To do so, alkaline diets cut out many key foods and arguing that this helps to maintain the ideal pH.

The alkaline diet is actually an umbrella term for diets that focus on decreasing the acid-producing food you eat, in order to maintain a pH of around 7.4 in the blood

Alkaline Diet Meal Plan Examples

There is no single alkaline diet out there, which does tend to make writing an alkaline diet weight loss review a little bit difficult.

However, in general, the idea is that you avoid acidic foods and focus your diet on neutral and alkaline-forming foods.

Doing so means that you will avoid most meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy, along with grains.

Many recommendations also suggest that you cut out caffeine and alcohol as well.

Best Low Carb Vegetables

So, you end up with a diet that heavily relies on fruits and vegetables, along with legumes and nuts.

Honestly, that’s a fairly limited diet.

Nevertheless, the diet does suit some other dietary restrictions. For example, an alkaline diet could potentially work well for vegetarians and vegans, as it does not involve meat or dairy.

It is also a good fit for people who are gluten-free, although you’d still have to check food labels. Beyond that, the diet also avoids many areas that people could be allergic to and would be effective at reducing levels of sugar and fat, simply because of the foods consumed.

The diet is also a little confusing, as some people may choose to cut out the acid-producing foods altogether, while others will simply cut down on them.

While there is no set meal plan for an alkaline diet, the idea is to cut down (or out) acid-producing foods, including meat, eggs and dairy

The Arguments Behind the Alkaline Diet

The general concept of the alkaline or the pH diet is that our modern diets tend to be acid-forming. This aspect is supposed to move the body away from its natural pH and can theoretically contribute to health issues.

Many aspects of the diet are based on the idea of acidic ash.

Woman eating meat

Essentially, this means that when some foods are used by the body they leave behind an acidic residue.

This is analogous to the way that ash is left behind when you burn wood in a fireplace.

The argument is that if you eat foods that produce this acidic ash, then it is going to directly affect the pH of your body, making it more acidic.

In contrast, alkaline ash would make your body more alkaline, while neutral would have no effect.

Modern diets tend to contain a high amount of food with acidic properties, like meat and dairy. So, the argument is that cutting these down (or out of the diet completely) will result in a more alkaline pH and better health benefits.

Arguments for the alkaline diet tend to focus on the idea that some foods produce alkaline ash, which may have significant impacts on health

The Alkaline Diet and Acidosis

One of the connections between the alkaline diet and health is the idea of acidosis.

Vegetables in a hand

This is actually a serious condition and it can contribute to significant health problems. In some cases, acidosis can even put your life at risk (3).

Acidosis sounds like a key reason to follow an alkaline diet but it isn’t really. In particular, acidosis occurs because your lungs and kidneys are no longer able to maintain pH balance (4), which results in increased acidity.

However, consuming less acidic food isn’t really going to change your risk of this happening, nor will it fix the problem if it is occurring.

Instead, there is a range of risk factors for acidosis, including dehydration, diabetes and kidney failure (5).

Simply put, the issue is connected to the overall function of your body, rather than the food you eat.

Acidosis is a serious health condition but it isn't directly connected to your diet

Acidity and Cancer

Scientific Research Analyzing liquids

Another proposed connection is between acidity and cancer. But, research has failed to find that link (6).

Furthermore, the idea that we can change cancer risk or treat cancer by altering the acidity of our diet is majorly flawed.

For one thing, your food will only affect the pH of your urine, not your blood (7,8).

Besides that, the body naturally keeps the pH of blood and tissue at 7.4 regardless of diet. We already know that cancer grows in those environments, so there is no reason to think that changing your eating patterns will do anything.

Now, cancer will tend to grow faster in an acidic environment but that happens because the cancer creates that environment, rather than the other way around (9).

There is no evidence that an acidic diet promotes cancer and the idea isn't particularly logical either

Acidic Foods and Osteoporosis

One of the arguments for an alkaline diet is that your body has to draw alkaline minerals from your bones in order to maintain the correct pH. This includes minerals like calcium, which is fundamental for bone health.

Skeleton hand, concept of bone health

The pattern means that, in theory, consuming an acid-forming diet would result in low mineral density in the bones, which could lead to the development of conditions like osteoporosis.

But, that theory doesn’t hold up in practice.

Instead, the kidneys act to produce the ions that are used to neutralize acids – so those compounds aren’t pulled from anywhere (10).

For that matter, osteoporosis isn’t caused by the loss of calcium anyway but instead from the loss of a protein called collagen (11,12).

If that wasn’t enough, research hasn't found any connection between bone health and urine pH (13,14,15).

Indeed, research suggests that high protein diets contribute to improved bone health (16,17), even though that type of diet is supposedly acid-forming.

Despite theories to the contrary, an acidic diet doesn't pull minerals from your bones and won't increase osteoporosis risk

Ancestral Diets

Another area of argument that I want to touch on in this alkaline diet weight loss review is ancestral diets. This concept is also used when it comes to the Paleo diet.

The underlying idea of this area is that our ancestors were healthier than us and didn’t rely on the same processed food and eating patterns that we do today. So, getting back to those patterns should help to improve health.

Paleo diet concept

As theories go, the idea is sketchy at best.

After all, there are many differences between us and our ancestors. Our diet is certainly one area but we are also much less physically active and food is more predictable. So, the eating patterns that worked for our ancestors may not be the best choice for us anyway.

At the same time, we don’t actually know all that much about how our ancestors ate and this varied considerably depending on time and physical location.

Research shows this too. For example, one study indicated that 87% of pre-agricultural people ate alkaline diets (18) – although that doesn’t prove those diets were beneficial.

However, another study suggested that around 50% of hunter-gatherer societies were acid-producing (19).

For that matter, both the Paleo diet and the alkaline diet claim to be based on ancestral eating patterns, yet Paleo includes more acid-producing food while the alkaline diet involves less.

All of these areas make it pretty clear that pH isn’t the reason that our ancestors were healthy. Realistically, the reason was probably a combination of diet and lifestyle, something that we cannot simply mimic.

Some ancestral diets were alkali-producing, while others were acid-producing. Regardless, their diets offer little information about the healthiest practices for us in the modern day

Does the Alkaline Diet Make Sense?

At face value, the alkaline diet does make a certain degree of sense. That’s why you may see many positive alkaline diet weight loss reviews out there if you do a little digging.

Woman questioning

After all, if your body naturally wants to be around pH 7.4, then making sure your body stays there is logical. It’s easy to see how that could, theoretically, contribute to better health.

But, that is a simplification.

The problem is that the alkaline diet tends to ignore the ability of the human body to regulate pH.

Our bodies go to major lengths to keep our pH stable, regardless of what we eat or what we drink.

Barring a major health problem (like organ failure), our bodies will continue to do that regardless of what we eat or drink.

This means that in practice, eating less acidic food won’t actually have any impact on the pH in your body. The blogger Abby Langer also highlights just how absurd the diet is, stating that it mocks accepted concepts of physiology. Similarly, Healthline talks about how the alkaline diet is nothing but a myth

The alkaline diet concept overlooks key aspects of human biology, especially in terms of how our bodies manage pH

Actual pH Changes

Litmus paper for alkaline diet

Now, if you were to follow an alkaline diet, you probably would notice changes in the pH levels of your urine (if you measured it).

Many people use this information as evidence that the diet is actually working, even though urine pH changes aren’t that reliable anyway (20,21).

But, changing the pH of your urine is meaningless – because the pH of your blood is what’s relevant to health.

In fact, the pH of your urine will change based on what you eat, as this is connected to the mechanism that controls the pH of your blood. For example, if you eat a large acidic meal (like steak), then your urine will be acidic shortly afterward because your body is removing that acidity.

On the other hand, the pH of your blood is a tightly controlled system and one that you cannot influence with food.

On an alkaline diet, you may see pH changes in your urine but these aren't representative of pH changes in your blood. In fact, you can't influence your blood pH, regardless of how hard you try

Problems with the Alkaline Diet

Thinking woman

Arguments about pH aside, the alkaline diet isn’t a particularly good choice for health anyway.

For one thing, it’s hard to follow. You end up cutting out a lot of different foods, including many that are commonplace. That aspect alone means that most people simply wouldn’t be able to follow the diet in the long-term.

Instead, they’d end up going back to their previous eating patterns sooner rather than later.

Another major issue is that the diet cuts out a lot of healthy foods. For example, eggs, dairy and meat are all considered acid-forming, so they get cut out of the diet. Yet, all of those are important for health.

For that matter, there is a decent amount of evidence for the health benefits of coffee and many of those benefits are connected to caffeine. You would lose those too on an alkaline diet.

So, if you did follow the diet, you’d end up cutting out a lot of key nutrients and could even end up compromising your health in the process.

The alkaline diet also cuts out a lot of healthy food and could even make you nutrient-deficient in the long-term unless you planned carefully

Alkaline Diet Weight Loss Review

At the end of the day, the biggest question is: Does the alkaline diet work?

In particular, does it work for weight loss?

Obesity and weight loss concept

As I mentioned before, a lot of the claims about the diet don’t really make sense.

Your body already tightly regulates pH and does so without your help. So, eating fewer acidic foods isn’t going to have any impact on that system one way or the other.

Yet, some people do find that they lose weight following an alkaline diet.

For that matter, many people swear by it.

In some cases, that view may simply be because people are seeing what they want to. However, that won’t always be true.

Instead, people often end up dramatically changing the food they eat when they start this type of diet. Frequently, this will mean that they tend to eat better food overall and move towards whole foods and vegetables, rather than processed options.

Those patterns alone will contribute to improved health and weight loss.

It’s also important to note that the idea of the alkaline diet isn’t to promote weight loss anyway. You may lose weight simply by changing the food that you eat but, that comes from differences in the calories that you’re consuming. So, it isn’t directly connected to acidity at all.

Woman grocery shopping

Plus, in the process, you’re avoiding many healthy foods and doing so could even harm your health in the long-term.

So then, it should come as no surprise that there are better options out there.

In fact, there are a number of different ways that can help you to lose weight while promoting your overall health.

The first thing to note is that you don’t need a diet to lose weight. Instead, you’re looking for a lifestyle. The key difference is that a lifestyle is something you can follow in the long-term, without it being torture every step of the way.

There are many examples of powerful lifestyles out there and no perfect answer. Instead, the goal is to find a lifestyle that works for your own needs and strengths, while also promoting healthy food.

For example, some of the options out there include Paleo, low carb, ketosis, intermittent fasting and autophagy – and there are many others as well.

When looking at diets and lifestyles, the first step is to consider whether the concept is something that you personally can follow long-term.

Myself, I don’t believe that the alkaline diet would meet that criteria for anybody. After all, you’re cutting out a lot of food and you could even make yourself deficient in some vitamins and minerals unless you were extremely careful.

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What diet/lifestyle approach do you personally use? Is it helping you maintain your health?​

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