Alkaline diet latest Hollywood weight-loss trend

February 16, 2012 8:20:28 PM PST
Superstars Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Kirsten Dunst are all following the latest Hollywood health craze that claims to make you look and feel better than ever. It's based on balancing your body chemistry. But does it really work?

For years, a mysterious illness was sidelining Jan Brehm.

"I have been in emergency three times thinking I had a heart attack, and it was acid," Brehm said.

Brehm thought her eating habits could be the culprit, so she decided to try the alkaline diet.

Registered dietician Erin Palinski says it's based on the philosophy that what we eat and drink affects our body chemistry or pH level, which is naturally "alkaline" at 7.4. The goal is to keep that level in check.

"The people that promote the alkaline diet state that by being able to increase your intake of alkaline-forming foods, and decrease your intake of acidic foods, you can actually alter the chemistry in your body," Palinski said.

Promoting things like weight loss, improved immunity, and even disease prevention, celebrity nutritionist Dr. Lindsey Duncan is a proponent of the alkaline diet. He says our meals are increasingly acidic, and our bodies are paying the price.

"Cardiovascular disease, depression, forgetfulness, poor mood, mind, memory," Dr. Duncan said.

To reverse this, Dr. Duncan recommends avoiding meals packed with acidic foods like wheat, dairy, meat, fish, sugar and caffeine. Instead, he says, load your plate with pH balancers.

"Anything that's dark, leafy and green. The general rule of thumb is the more bitter your foods, the more alkaline," Dr. Duncan said.

Other examples include watermelon, almonds, oranges and apples. Brehm felt a difference within days of making the switch.

"Not only does the fatigue lift, but the mood shift, energy," Brehm said.

Palinski says that while the alkaline diet dishes up healthy foods with actual science behind them, when it comes to pH levels...

"There's been no human medical research studies that have proven any of the claims of the alkaline diet. Our body really naturally, unless we have some kind of health problem, is going to keep our pH within the optimal level," Palinski said.

Palinski also says the diet can also be restrictive, and some take it to the extreme, consuming supplements that promise to boost your pH, or even ingesting baking soda.

"This can make the body too alkaline and bring it outside of the optimal range, and that can actually have potentially deadly side effects," Palinski said.

But Dr. Duncan counters there are plenty of studies showing the health benefits of alkaline foods, as long as they're properly balanced.

"The proper ratio of food is 70 to 75 percent alkaline and 25 to 30 percent acid," Dr. Duncan said.

And while experts continue to debate the food and pH level connection, Brehm says she's a believer.

"All I have is what I've experienced, and the difference that I feel is night and day," she said.

Some alkaline dieters test their pH daily with strips, which are available at the drugstore. As always, it's important to check with your doctor before trying any diet.

Many losing weight on alkaline diet, which focuses on controlling bodies' pH levels, despite evidence of link between weight loss, body pH levels.