Do acidic diets cause cancer?

The short answer is “no”.

But if you need an explanation as to why it doesn’t, here it is: The theory is that cancer cells require an oxygen-free environment to reproduce, and when our tissues become too acidic, they end up carrying less oxygen, thus helping the cancer cells to survive.

What’s worse is that cancer cells themselves excrete extraordinary amounts of acid, adding to the pH imbalance in a person’s body.

On the other hand, our body’s natural state is alkaline, and it is in this environment that healthy cells thrive. But food has no bearing on the acidity level.

In fact, according to Dr Ang Peng Tiam, Medical Director at Parkway Cancer Centre (PCC), our blood must be alkaline and “the body does whatever it takes to maintain it”. He adds: “No matter what you eat, your body’s pH level will naturally maintain itself at 7.4.”

The theory further expounds that if your diet comprises mainly of acidic foods, this, therefore, promotes cancer and many other illnesses. Many of these theorists claim that by alkalising your body, you can improve overall health and even defeat cancer.

But Dr Ang maintains that there is no basis for the claims that acidic diets increase your risk of getting the disease. In fact, he says: “The moment your pH level gets too alkaline or too acidic, it’s probably because you’re already very, very ill.”

So are alkaline diets just a hoax?

There is plenty of research that proves that despite the acidity or alkalinity of the food we eat, it does not actually change the pH levels of our blood.

Furthermore, while cancer cells do tend to flourish in an acidic environment, they have also been proven to be able to grow in a pH level of 7.4. Secondly, when cancer cells do develop, they also produce their own acidic environment so as to survive and this is what keeps the cancer thriving, not the pH level of the person’s blood.

An acidic body does not cause cancer – cancer causes the body to become acidic.

Advocates of the alkaline diet say that one should not consume too much grains, animal protein and even dairy products as they all contain harmful levels of acidity. But eating fresh produce is rarely a bad idea, especially when it means you’re not consuming processed foods instead. A reduction of grains in a person’s diet might not necessarily help him or her if he or she suffers from other gastrointestinal problems.

PCC’s CanHOPE Senior Dietitian Fahma Sunarja says: “Foods are classified as alkaline, acidic or neutral according to the pH of the solution created with their ash in water. An alkaline diet has its foundations in wanting to help the body maintain its slight alkalinity of 7.35 to 7.45 without stressing the body’s regulators of acid-base balance. But the challenges with such a diet include classifications of food, quality of food before ingestion and the mechanism of digestion.”

A balanced diet will help you prevent cancer, not an alkaline one.

Another dietitian at CanHOPE is Chloe Ong, and she concurs with her colleague: “Our bodies react naturally to maintain the pH balance by increasing or decreasing respiration, and also to mop up excess hydrogen ions and eliminate them through urination, which places the role of the alkaline diet in question.”

She adds that foods that are classified under alkaline-promoting are mostly of plant origin, like fruits and vegetables, red wine, fermented soybean products like tofu, etc., while foods that are acidic include brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, oats, trout, salmon, chicken, eggs, lean beef, tuna, lentils, dairy products, etc.

Both dietitians advise: “If one were to follow an alkaline diet strictly, he or she may not be able to obtain all nutrients required. A balanced diet that includes all food groups is a better option.”

Bon appetit!

  • Food has no bearing on the acidity level.
  • There is no basis for claims that acidic diets increase cancer risk.
  • Research proves that the acidity or alkalinity of the food we eat does not change the pH levels of our blood.
  • A balanced diet will help you prevent cancer, not an alkaline one.
POSTED IN Cancer Prevention, Nutrition
TAGS cancer diet & nutrition, misconceptions