Kelly Ripa and other celebs tout “Alkaline Diet”

Live with Kelly and Michael co-host Kelly Ripa is getting back to “basic.” At least as it refers to the acid-base (acid-alkali) composition of her body!

Ripa recently told Live viewers that she has been on an alkaline cleanse, and that it  “changed my life and the whole way I think about food.” The seven-day regimen, called the Alkamind Cleanse was created by chiropractor/nutritionist Daryl Gioffre. Gioffre says that an alkaline diet will decrease body acidity which can cause inflammation, weight gain and digestive and skin issues.

Ripa says she’s a fan:

“It’s a very manageable cleanse. You’re not hungry. You eat. I actually eat much more on this cleanse than I do in my actual life, but it’s what you eat and how you eat it.”

Kelly, a fitness fanatic, has suffered many sports injuries, including pulled muscles, stress fractures and chronic low back pain. She says the diet has helped, saying “I swear, I think it’s responsible for me not being in pain.”

Other celebrities who are proponents of the Alkaline Diet include Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alicia Silverstone, Jennifer Aniston, Kirsten Dunst and Jared Leto.

A measurement called pH is used to determine acidity and alkalinity

waterWater, or H2O, is made up of 2 hydrogen and one oxygen atoms bonded together. H20 can separate into two parts, a positively charged hydrogen ion (H+), and a negatively charged hydroxyl ion (OH-). pH is a measure of the relative amount of free H+ and OH- in water. Water that has more free H+ is acidic, whereas water that has more free OH- is basic (or alkaline).

pH values range from 0 to 14:

  • pH 0-6 is acidic
  • pH 7 is neutral
  • pH 8-14 is alkaline (or “basic”)

PH_Scale.svgThe pH can vary quite a bit throughout the body. For instance, the stomach is very acidic, with pH’s in the range of 2-3.5 and this acidity is necessary to digest food properly. The skin is also slightly acidic, which inhibits the growth of bacteria. The pH of blood is tightly regulated, running a little bit on the alkaline side, with a normal range of 7.35- 7.45.

The body has many mechanisms (overall called acid-base homeostasis) to maintain a normal blood pH. Food intake has little effect on the blood pH, although it may have an effect on the pH of your urine.

What is an Alkaline Diet?

An alkaline diet, such as that written about by Dr. Stephan Domenig in his book, The Alkaline Cure: Lose Weight, Gain Energy and Feel Young, aims to increase the intake of what they consider “alkaline foods,” while decreasing the amount of “acidic foods.”

Food is considered “alkaline” if it is low in sugar, and high in water and minerals (such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and phosphorous). Some fruits (specifically avocados, tomatoes, lemons, limes, grapefruits, coconuts, and pomegranates)  and vegetables, soybeans and tofu, and some nuts, seeds, and legumes are considered alkaline.  Drinking lots of water is encouraged.  The use of the term “alkaline” to refer to citrus fruits like lemons, lines and grapefruit is quite frankly ridiculous – the reason they’re called citrus fruits is because they have very high levels of citric acid, a property which gives them their tartness.

Food is considered “acidic” if it is high in sugar or yeast, is fermented, contains fungi (like mushrooms), is processed or refined. Dairy, eggs, meat, most grains, and processed foods, like canned and packaged snacks and convenience food are considered acidic.   Alcohol or caffeine is usually discouraged as well.

Proponents claim that acid foods can lead to inflammation, fatigue, obesity, digestive issues and even cancer but there is little to no scientific evidence to support thisMany alkaline diet enthusiasts believe that in order to maintain a constant blood pH, the body takes alkaline minerals (such as calcium) from your bones to buffer the acids from the acid-forming foods you eat. This could lead to osteoporosis.  This is a gross oversimplification of how the body works and you should consult your doctor if you’re worried about osteoporosis and what to do about it.

Gioffre  adds that the “purpose of eating alkaline foods and drinking alkaline water is NOT to try and raise the pH of your blood (it may raise the pH of your urine). The whole purpose of getting off “acid” foods and eating “alkaline” ones is to prevent your body from having to do all the regulating.” The diet is “designed to make your body more sufficient in alkaline minerals and nutrients and remove the daily chemical stresses that result from an acidic lifestyle.”

Acid Sucks

Does an “alkaline diet” really have any health benefits?

Compared to many other fad diets, an alkaline diet is not a bad choice. It is primarily a vegan diet which encourages lots of fruit and vegetables and discourages processed food. As long as you are getting all the proper vitamins (especially supplemental B12) and adequate protein you should be fine. My biggest problem with the diet is the underlying rhetoric that (1) “ACID IS BAD” and (2) that you can change your body pH by eating different foods.  By the way, paleo diets would be considered acidic diets but these are the diets that humans thrived on for about 2 million years.

There is no evidence that acidic foods can cause osteoporosis. According to dietician Joe Leech:

“The glaring problem with this theory, is that the function of the kidneys is completely ignored. Our kidneys are fundamental to removing acids and regulating body pH. It’s one of their main roles…. Our respiratory system is also involved in controlling blood pH. When bicarbonate ions from the kidneys bind to acids in the blood, they form carbon dioxide (which we breathe out) and water (which we pee out).

The bones are actually not involved in this process at all.”

Current research shows that there is absolutely no link between an acid forming diet and cancer.


Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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