Dr. Lee, the Healthy Professor

Acid / Alkaline Eating is Misguided

Written by Dr. L. Lee Coyne | Views 23587

There are far too many 'health advocates and practitioners' (for lack of better words) who advocate the eating alkaline message for far too long and without good science to support their positions.

market vegetablesI don't often post items that send you to another persons webpage but this article hit a good nerve so I chose to share it with my readers. The topic of acid / alkaline balance has been a sore point with me for many years. There are far too many "health advocates and practitioners" (for lack of better words) who advocate the eating alkaline message for far too long and without good science to support their positions.

Acid/base balance is one of the most complicated chapters to teach in biochemistry/physiology courses. I know because I tried to do it for 20 years as a University professor. There are entire books on this subject alone and there have even been attempts at teaching the subject using elaborate "programmed learning modules". However there is one simple fact -- everything that leaves the stomach, from the right end, has to be acidic or you did not digest it.

You also find that the skin must be acidic to attract moisture and to protect it from "bad" bacteria. The skin is the first level of a healthy immune system. You will also find that hair should be acidic to attract moisture - that is why pH balanced hair care products are always acidic.

Dr. Dorothy Adamiak is a Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto just posted a very "to the point" item on this subject


According to some “experts” a health-promoting diet needs to be 70-80% alkaline. These “experts” advise against meat consumption, as “meat is acid and therefore bad for you”. Because of this understanding many followers have become vegetarians and even vegans.

I originally embraced the acid-alkaline concept with enthusiasm when I freshly graduated as a naturopathic doctor. I abstained from meat and other animal based food sources for a while, but to my surprise the results were not favorable to my health. I didn’t however want to discount this concept entirely due to my own failure and diligently observed my patients that continued with alkaline diets.

Over the years, as I gathered more clinical experience and data, I have noticed that despite the claims, an alkaline-based diet is not health-promoting for many individuals. I researched the subject further, to find a scientific basis for the claims made and there were a few surprises along the way.

  1. “Experts” claim that meat is acidic. Yet, the parts we eat, i.e. the muscles have a pH of 7.1, also it is well known that blood has a pH of 7.4, both are alkaline in other words.
  2. “Experts” claim that plants are alkaline. Yet many plant foods are acidic and very acidic. Here are some examples: Lemon pH 2, tomato pH 4.5, blueberry pH 3.0, carrot juice pH 6.0. These plants are certainly not alkaline. Their pH varies and surprisingly those plants which are highly regarded for there healing and detoxifying properties seem to be quite acidic.
  3. “Experts” say our body is alkaline. Yet, different parts of the body have very different pH levels. A functional stomach must be acidic and healthy pancreas must be alkaline. So describing an alkaline body as a state of good health is complete nonsense.
  4. “Experts” tell you that you must ensure that your blood is alkaline. Yet, our blood is always very tightly guarded. It is always alkaline, regardless of your health status, even at death. A medical diagnosis of metabolic acidosis is given when blood is still alkaline.
  5. “Experts” tell you to test your saliva and urine. Yet, your saliva and urine pH will fluctuate throughout the day depending on your ability to digest and detoxify. Fluctuations are normal and desirable.
  6. “Experts” tell you that your saliva and urine should be alkaline. Yet Dr. Carrey, MD has demonstrated that the best and the energetically strongest point for saliva and urine is actually acid at pH 6.4. Please review his work on biologic ionization for better understanding of this concept.
  7. “Experts” tell you that acid promotes cancer. Yet, vitamin C, a highly acidic substance has been shown to have strong anti-cancer properties.

I watched my patients, diligently studied their diets and I eventually arrived at surprising correlations. Vegetarians and vegans have more problems with weight (both over and underweight), maintaining short- and long-term energy, muscular strength and explosive power, as well as cardiovascular capacity. With those conflicting findings: appealing theory vs non-appealing results I have engaged in research about diets, nutrition, and alkalinity. After a few years of diligent studies I found some solid answers.

  1. Proportion of acid and alkaline food does not matter for health. Dr. Price, DDS has proven this 80 years ago by correlating tooth health to acidity and alkalinity of diets. He has indisputably proven that dental health is not related to pH of food or alkaline ash left behind by those foods, but by density of nutrients present in food. To give you an example the Eskimos of Alaska ate a highly acidic diet with the ratio of acid (phosphorus, chlorine, sulphur) to alkaline (calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium) ash of 707/382. While on this diet their teeth had less than one cavity per thousand examined. When their diet became more basic (ratio 234/227) the number dramatically jumped to 130 cavities per thousand teeth examined. Healthy teeth reflect a healthy body. Yet an alkaline diet does not promote healthy teeth.
  2. Dr. Jones who promoted and emphasized the need of alkaline diet for dental health was found not to have enough quantitative data to support her claims. Her findings remained a theory and were never proven. However, due to the appealing nature of the claims the theory has been disseminated as a fact.
  3. Acidity-alkalinity of the body parts and the pH gradient between organs is maintained by several body-wide buffers and acid-alkaline ions. This system can withstand a great variety of long-term dietary practices from highly acidic to highly basic. Kidneys play an important role in pH homeostasis. Doubling one's meat intake places only 10% extra burden on the kidneys.
  4. A highly popular lemon-juice test for body alkalinity does not test body pH (since there is no such thing as a single body pH), but rather reflects the strength of the buffers. Start by reading more about bicarbonate, phosphate, and protein buffers of the body to be critical of erroneous claims.
  5. Vegetarianism and veganism do not save animals. Farming displaces the natural habitat of many animals and makes detrimental changes to the environment of wildlife. Please read “The Vegetarian Myth” by Lierre Keith if you are looking for a no-nonsense recoup of vegetarianism and are considering the ideology of saving the planet.
  6. Nature looks cruel, as per our “humanitarian” standard, but it is not up to us to judge. Yes, plants do not scream when you eat them, but neither does a caterpillar when you step on it. Just because you do not see or hear it, does not mean it does not exist. Plants can be under considerable stress when damaged (taken out of the ground, broken or eaten). Plants do not scream, but experiments show they do feel. Remember this next time you juice you veggies.

The bottom line is that it does not matter from the point of view of pH affecting health whether you are a vegetarian or meat-eater. What matters is the quality of food, density of nutrients, and the ability to distinguish whole foods from food-like products. Your best bet for being healthy is not counting your alkaline nutrients, but to focus on soil quality, robustness of plant and animal foods, as well as avoidance of modern practices that block detoxification organs. So next time instead of debating whether kale or steak, get smarter and consider throwing away your antiperspirant.

This is my quick Facebook response to Dr. D's post.-- "right on -- I have said this for many years. You have just outlined several of the reasons why I would never be a vegetarian - along with the fact that humans are omnivores. People need to realize that everything that leaves the stomach, from the right end, is acidic or you didn't digest it. We also find healthy hair an skin are acidic which attracts water. If you were really hyper-acidic you would fall asleep and if you were truly hyper-alkaline you would be severely hyper active. Vegan is a 20th century word and would not be possible without modern technology. Good job !!"


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This is very interesting, You're a very skilled blogger.
I have joined your rss feed and look forward to seeking more of your wonderful post.
Also, I've shared your web site in my social networks!

23 Jan, 2020 : 8:01 AM

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Tracey Murphy

Mr. Coyne, It is VERY refreshing to read your comments! Not only are there too many diet gurus around promoting their books based on pseudo or hypothetical science with no research to back their claims. Some of these same authors are not real doctors or scientists or have any medical training whatsoever. With obesity rates soaring, it is no wonder why so many people believe in these ridiculous claims. Everyone is looking for a "new way" to lose their visceral fat and become healthy. From rigorous food combining (not ever eating meat with potatoes), to the alkalinity/acidity rules to strict vegans and beyond, many of these authors write in a manner that is convincing so it must be true. Take for example Dr. Howell's Enzyme Nutrition theory ... this book is said to be some 700+ pages long however no one has been able to locate the book. The obesity epidemic needs to be addressed however not in using these quack science theories. Choose food for its nutritional value. Reduce consumption of processed foods and sugars, eat a variety of plant foods, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, healthy grains & legumes, healthy oils ... and enjoy meal times.

1 Feb, 2013 : 5:04 PM

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Just to make a point about the Inuit Eskimos and their "healthy" meat based diet:
Article from Reuters:
The Inuit in Canada's far north have lifespans 12 to 15 years shorter than the average Canadian's, government data showed on Wednesday, putting the aboriginal people on a par with developing countries such as Guatemala and Mongolia.

At 64 to 67 years, Inuit life expectancy "appears to have stagnated" between 1991 and 2001, and falls well short of Canada's average of 79.5 years, which has steadily risen, Statistics Canada said.

"A lot of people see life in the Arctic as pristine, where Inuit live problem-free, but in reality people are trying to raise families and live a better life in difficult conditions," said Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit organization.

Inuit now live as long as the average Canadian did in the 1940s, Simon noted in an interview. "We didn't even have medicare (publicly funded health-care) then, so yes, this is pretty shocking."

Inuit have the lowest life expectancy among Canada's three aboriginal groups, which also include Indians and Metis. Together, the groups number 1.2 million, or about 3.8 percent of Canada's total population of around 32 million.

The Inuit live primarily in the huge northern Canadian territory of Nunavut, as well as in the Northwest Territories, northern Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Statistics Canada based its data on a 2001 census of regions where Inuit represented at least 80 percent of the population.

In 2006 there were about 50,500 Inuit in Canada. The data released on Wednesday shows the further north they lived, the shorter their life expectancy.

The numbers are similar to those of Guatemala and Mongolia, where life expectancy is 68 and 66 years, respectively, according to the World Health Organization.

While native peoples in Canada suffer from higher unemployment, lower incomes and less formal education

6 Jan, 2013 : 1:54 AM

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L. Lee Coyne

Irene -- regarding Colin Campbell's China Study - it is a worst case example of trying to make data fit into a biased hypothesis. The Book is not the China study. The book is an attempt to justify Dr. Campbell's mission to promote a vegan lifestyle. It tests no theory and is not good research design. So he cherry picked the few correlation in the entire study that would support his position. If you actually read the study 900 + pages you would find it difficult to find any + correlations between vegan eating and healthy markers. I offer you these few references by people who have examined the issue in far more detail than I care to engage.

Dr. Campbell should really get over the fact that man is an omnivore and stop wasting our time.

27 Dec, 2012 : 8:15 PM

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Dale Hicks

THANK YOU, DR. COYNE!! I am a CNHP, certified nutritionist and a digestive health specialist and I have always felt there was something not quite right about the idea that we should 'alkalize or die' . . . I so appreciate you putting this in terms I can use to explain to clients and other practitioners why their strong emphasis on alkalinity may be somewhat (or totally) misguided. Like you, I could not find any textbook science that undeniably supported the necessity of making the body more alkaline. I think nutritionist tend to emphasis the alkalinity need in recommendations to clients because, let's face it, the SAD is definitely too acidic for most of us. Good job!

19 Dec, 2012 : 4:56 PM

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L. Lee Coyne

Claudia -- thank you for the acknowledgement -- my best single recommendation is any good quality, recent Biochemistry textbook that has an acid / base balance chapter.

18 Dec, 2012 : 10:21 PM

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L. Lee Coyne

Dale -- I appreciate your comments and encouragement that somebody actually reads the blog. Your points are right on except for your last statement regarding the SAD as being too acidic. Once again, there are many things wrong with the SAD but acidity is not one of them.

18 Dec, 2012 : 10:18 PM

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And so what do you have to say about Dr. Colin Campbell's research in The China Study? His scientific results showed that a vegan diet was that best diet by far!

18 Dec, 2012 : 10:16 PM

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Very interesting article, thank you for posting it.
I would appreciate if you could add to it the references related to your findings, at least the main list of them, I am a University Professor my self and would enjoy some reading on the issue.

12 Dec, 2012 : 6:31 PM

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L. Lee Coyne

I always appreciate knowing that somebody reads what I write. A complete review of the peer reviewed scientific literature and biochemistry textbooks will not show any mention of "alkaline or acid forming foods". Several complete meta analysis have shown no relation between alkaline eating and any health benefit. There are no credible science explanation for trying to alter food choices and thus affect various pH levels of any area of the body. Even the Wikipedia article en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alkaline_diet (updated in 2011) provided several scientific references to support there is no relation between food choices and pH. Think Eskimo (Inuit) for a minute - none of the so called alkaline foods are even available to them. The Wikipedia article also said "Several websites that are the top results when looking at "alkaline diet" on internet search engines have characteristics of possible diet fraud." All of the Alternative health care practitioners rely on websites and books (none of which are "peer reviewed") as their sources and that is not scientific.I have no misunderstanding of this concept. The pH of the mouth & stomach must be acidic or you don't digest. The colon is acidic as are the skin and hair to oppose "bad" bacteria. If the skin and hair were alkaline they would dry out- acid attracts moisture. If one is truly hyper-acidic they fall asleep and if you were too alkaline you would be hyperactive. The work is not irrelevant - that is why I included it in the post. I would suggest you either read an advanced biochemistry text or take a good course in the subject. I have done both and taught the same at several universities. Various body pH levels are self controlled through the respiratory, renal and buffering systems like bicarbonate, carbonic acid, phosphate and selected protein components.

23 Nov, 2012 : 12:35 AM

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