Volume 3, Issue 22
June 17, 2010

Is there any truth to the
"Acid-Ash" diets?

You may have heard that as people grow older, and especially when they become sick, their bodies become progressively more acidic. You may have even heard about some new diets on the market called "Acid-Ash" diets. Should you be on one of these diets?

Early in my alternative medical career, someone told me it's the foods we eat that cause this acid accumulation. They said certain foods, known as acid foods, leave an acidic residual when your body metabolizes them. Other foods leave an alkaline (opposite of acid) residual. Therefore, the reason that people become acidic is because they eat too many acid foods and not enough alkaline foods. But is there any truth to this theory?

I don't think so, and here are two reasons why. First, the acid that your body produces comes overwhelmingly from energy metabolism. The amount of acid you produce from the metabolism of acid foods is less than one-half of one percent of the amount of acid produced in normal metabolism. It's just a drop in the bucket.

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Second, for two years I monitored the acid production in many people who were avoidingÿ acid foods. I did not find that their acid production was any less than those eating acid foods. Now I have a third reason for doubting this theory.

A meta-analysis of studies on this theory just hit the newsstand recently. A meta-analysis is a review of many studies, and is a very accurate way too analyze data.

The authors of the study looked at this theory because proponents of a low-acid food diet say that acidic foods force the kidneys to release excessively acid urine. They also say the main component of these acid foods is phosphoric acid. And when people take in too much phosphoric acid, the body leeches calcium out of the bones to balance it. Calcium has an alkaline effect. The supposed result is that osteoporosis develops from a loss of calcium in the urine. But is it true?

The researchers wanted to find out if phosphoric acid intake causes bone loss in healthy adults.

Specifically, the researchers looked at three things. They wanted to know whether or not a diet high in phosphoric acid affected urine calcium loss, overall calcium balance, and markers indicating excessive bone loss. Here's what they found.

They were able to find 12 studies that examined the effects of various levels of dietary phosphoric acid intake. All 12 studies followed a total of 269 subjects. Three of the studies did, in fact, report an increase in the amount of acid excreted in the urine from elevated phosphoric acid intake.

However, this increase in acid urine did not result in a loss of calcium.
In fact, the opposite happened! Every one of the studies "demonstrated significant decreases in urine calcium excretion in response to phosphate supplements whether the calcium intake was high or low." And that wasn't all.

None of the studies revealed a lower calcium balance from eating high levels of phosphoric acid.ÿ According to the authors, "All of the findings from this meta-analysis were contrary to the acid-ash hypothesis. Higher phosphate intakes were associated with decreased urine calcium and increased calcium retention. This meta-analysis did not find evidence that phosphate intake contributes to demineralization of bone or to bone calcium excretion in the urine."

So why didn't eating all that excess phosphoric acid result in calcium loss?ÿ Because as much as it was, it was still insignificant next to the amount of acid your body routinely produces from everyday normal metabolism.

So if decreasing your intake of acid foods isn't the answer to preventing acid from accumulating in your body, what is? It all has to do with optimizing the way your cells produce energy. And that primarily means staying in good physical condition, getting plenty of rest, and eating good healthy whole foods. Please read my book, Bursting With Energy, to get all of the details on this.ÿ It is important to prevent your body from being too acidic, but avoiding acid foods will not do it.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD

REF: Fenton TR, Lyon AW, Eliasziw M, Tough SC, Hanley DA. Phosphate decreases urine calcium and increases calcium balance: a meta-analysis of the osteoporosis acid-ash diet hypothesis. Nutr J. 2009 Sep 15;8:41.

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