Diet trends come and go, but some persist in their presence on the Internet and appeal to patients with medical conditions. When Googling “alkaline diet and cancer”, the web site returned 10,400,000 results in 0.62 seconds!
There is a plethora of information on this topic, but why? It’s clear that the concept that eating certain foods can “promote” an alkaline environment in the body, and therefore, provide health benefits to patients with cancer, understandably resonates and makes sense. But, is it accurate? Advisable? Eater beware!
Here’s what we currently know about the human body, based on science:
- There is not one constant pH level in the body. Our various systems are designed to tightly regulate pH at the level specific to that system;
- Cancer can grow in all kinds of systems and conditions;
- There’s limited evidence that diet can affect the pH of urine, but no current research showing that this affects the development and/or action of cancer in the body;
- Lab studies in this area are not projectable to the human body and, therefore, there is no scientific evidence currently available that supports the effectiveness or safety of this diet in people; and
- Implementing a restrictive diet that either cuts out foods/food groups or overly accentuates individual foods/food groups can cause deficiencies and other conditions.
If I were to boil the above down to one sentence, it would be: There is really no “alkaline diet” because diet alone cannot be used to manipulate the body’s pH; further, trying to implement this style of eating could cause imbalances and other health concerns—there’s a better way!
What to do instead? The World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research (THE authorities in diet, physical activity, and cancer risk) give 10 science-based steps we can all take, from maintaining a healthy weight to increasing intake of fruits and vegetables to eliminating processed meat and alcoholic beverages. Start today!
Virginia Cancer Specialists Nutrition Team