A good friend of mine recently sent me an email asking that I put together a diet comparison for some popular diets, specifically with the goal of General Health and Anti-Disease. She suggested reviewing the Alkalizing Diet, The Anti-Cancer Diet, and the Low Glycemic Index Diet. I would like to add the Paleo diet as well. I spent some time contemplating the best way to put this together, making sure that each diet is thoroughly researched, the blog post isn't too long, and most importantly, it remains objective and doesn't play any favorites. As I started doing research on some of the suggested diets, I began to realize exactly how lightly I will need to tread when reviewing these diets in order to maintain credibility.

Allow me to explain further. You've heard me explain that it is important to Alkalize your body in my previous posts Body Basics Part 1 and Part 2 (this post won't completely make sense if you haven't read those). And some of you may have found yourselves saying that this is an entirely foreign concept to you, so you headed to the University of Google to get some answers. You would find lots of sites in favor of the diet, with tons of testimonials, but you would likely also find sites like Quackwatch or an article like this (which is extremely long but worth reading) explaining the story of a now famous Kim Tinkham who was enthralled by the book The Secret (a book that takes the power of positive thinking to the point of literal control of the universe) and opted out of traditional cancer treatment, going for an Alkalizing Diet regimen only to die 3.5 years later. These sites typically criticize folks like Robert O. Young, who is attributed with being the founder of the Alkalizing Diet (his book The pH Miracle) because he has a Nutritionist degree from a university that no longer exists, he sells the products that he promotes, he provides enthusiastic anecdotal evidence but rarely publishes data, and unfortunately does not appear to be willing to negotiate any of his premises when people challenge his results. Admittedly, there he could do a better job of defending the diet that he promotes. The nail in the coffin is that he claims unwaveringly that an alkaline diet can prevent and entirely reverse cancer. I personally think it is extremely important to remain open to disagreements and other opinions, but I don't think that any of the above reasons should necessarily discredit a person who has been working with patients in person for 40 years simply because he isn't capable of producing PhD level laboratory results. For example, the fact that I don't use citations or bibliographies on my blog posts doesn't necessarily mean that I am giving incorrect advice and evidence would still be required to prove that I am. 

Let's Talk about Curing Cancer
I'll start by tackling the biggest reason for disagreement with the Alkalizing Diet; its claims to prevent and cure cancer. There is a large amount of debate over the term "Cancer Survivor" ranging from anyone who is currently alive that had cancer at some point, all the way to including friends and family members who have helped the diagnosed individual go through the emotional and psychological process of cancer treatment. "Cancer Survival Rates" are quite a bit more standardized though. In 1996 the definition of a cancer survival rate was redefined by the National Cancer Institute to include any individual who lived for more than 5 years after diagnosis. That patient was considered successfully cured, despite what they died from in the future. It's not a surprise that there was a massive increase in the cancer survival rate when this definition was changed. Previously, it had taken into account what the individual eventually died from but until they did actually die of cancer, they were a survivor from the moment that they were diagnosed. I can understand why they did this, because the statistical inaccuracies of the previous definition had to be absolutely awful given the difficulty of tracking someone's cause of death 20 years after their treatment. We still have to be aware of it though when we hear statistics that say that cancer survival rates are increasing. 

So the next question would be, how long do people live when they don't treat their cancer? There's a study for that. The following is regarding a classic study examining the natural history of untreated breast cancer:

Published in 1962 by H. J. G. Bloom, W. W. Richardson, and E. J. Harries, and examined data from Middlesex Hospital from 1805 to 1933 where 250 cases of untreated breast cancer were identified and studied. They calculated survival as the period of time from onset of symptoms to death. What they found was that 18% of the 250 patients survived five years; 3.6% survived 10 years; and 0.8% survived 15 years. Of note, it was 19 years before all patients were dead. Overall, the median survival was 2.7 years. A survival graph from this classic paper is below:

Now I know things have changed since 1933 and untreated cancer today could mean drinking water with flouride, breathing polluted air, eating processed foods, and living a sedentary lifestyle. So I would expect the survival period to go down in a 2012 undiagnosed cancer patient. 

So What Prevents Cancer?
We are all too familiar with the types of cancer treatments that are approved in today's world: Surgery, Radiation, Chemotherapy. With very few exceptions for specific types of cancer, those are in fact the only treatments that it is legal for any doctor to prescribe in America. It is, in fact, illegal for a doctor to prescribe nutritional therapy in place of any of the above mentioned treatments. To clarify though, I am not an advocate of turning down any of these treatments if you are diagnosed with cancer. Most people however, pursue diets to help prevent cancer or keep it dormant after it is put into remission. As you will see in my next post on The Anti-Cancer Diet nearly all of the foods approved in the Alkalizing Diet are in fact cancer preventing foods, regardless of whether you agree with the pH scale as an effective way to decide what to eat. To give a few examples as well as a preview of The Anti Cancer Diet:

Taken from this page on the Anti-Cancer Diet:

Rich in polyphenols that reduce the growth of the new blood vessels needed for tumour growth, green tea is also a powerful antioxidant and activates mechanisms in the liver which help to eliminate cancerous toxins from the body more rapidly. In mice it has been shown to block the effects of chemical carcinogens responsible for breast, lung, oesophageal, stomach and colon cancer.

The most powerful natural anti-inflammatory identified today. In the laboratory it enhances the effectiveness of chemotherapy and reduces tumour growth. To be assimilated by the body tumeric needs to be mixed with black pepper and, ideally, it should be dissolved in oil.

These all help to regulate blood sugar levels, which in turn reduces insulin secretion and thus the growth of cancer cells. They promote the death of cancer cells in colon, breast, lung and prostate cancer

Cabbages, sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower contain powerful anti-cancer molecules. But boiling will destroy them — steam briefly or stir-fry rapidly in a little olive oil.

Carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes, apricots, beets and all the brightly colored fruits and vegetables contain vitamin A and lycopene, which have the proven capacity to inhibit the growth of particularly aggressive cancers.

Shiitake, crimini, portabello and oyster mushrooms stimulate the reproduction and activity of immune cells. They are often used in Japan as a complement to chemotherapy to support the immune system.

Rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil and mint are rich in essential oils of the tarpene family which reduce the spread of cancer cells by blocking the enzymes they need to invade neighboring tissues.

Oranges, tangerines, lemons and grapefruit contain anti-infammatory flavonoids which are also present in the skin. So buy organic, unwaxed citrus fruit and add the zest to salad dressing or steep the skins in hot water or tea.

Every one of the foods on that list is either neutral or alkaline. Now while there is no mention of alkalinity in any of those paragraphs, it starts to appear to be more than a coincidence when the batting average is near 100%.

As a wrap up on the Alkalizing Diet post as well as a framework for the future diet reviews, I have some criteria. It is my belief that any healthy diet must absolutely have the following things without compromise:
  1. The correct ratio of Carbohydrates (40%-50% of Calories), Fats (20%-30% of Calories), and Proteins (25%-35% of Calories).
  2. Very high in all nutrients, and diverse enough to include all essential nutrients.
  3. Devoid of foods that can be identified as obviously harmful.
  4. Ideally but not necessarily, tested by centuries of tradition.

That's not rocket science, but the Atkins Diet didn't seem to pull it off, and it is actually extremely difficult to accomplish without what would be considered a massive amount of fruits and vegetables by today's standards. It happens that the criteria of the pH level of food when digested in your body seems to lend itself to foods that meet these criteria in nearly all cases. This is likely due to the fact that the most alkaline parts of foods are in fact minerals themselves. One could spend all of their time isolating exactly which chemical in each food seems to be the one preventing cancer, but the stress alone from that could lead to cancer growth. Ultimately, I fully approve of the Alkalizing Diet with the exception of one claim:

Alkaline Water: There are good alkaline waters on the market, which are simply mineral rich water from springs that get their minerals from the mud that naturally filters them. However, there are also people on the web trying to sell water ionizers that add hydrogen molecules to your water and blatantly manipulate the pH scale. There is little to no evidence anywhere that this is even possible to sustain chemically, let alone that it has any benefits. There is nothing wrong with putting pH drops in your water, but know that those "trace minerals" are doing little more than a multivitamin would and your body likely cannot work with most of the minerals if not taken with the proper enzymes in food. Ultimately, the best way to get a concentrated dose of alkaline nutrition other than food itself is through whole food based supplements such as the green powders recommended on this website or any other greens on the market. Ionized water is a clear misunderstanding of the reason why the pH scale is generally a good gauge of how healthy a food is for our body.

P.S. Tune in for my next posts which will introduce and compare The Anti-Cancer Diet, The Low Glycemic Index Diet, and the Paleo Diet! I realize I did not provide a description of the Alkalizing Diet in this post, but this is only in the spirit of keeping the post relatively short and this diet has been covered in other posts. 

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