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Is eating a diet rich in meat and cheese bad for you?

by , 25 November 2013

Is your diet rich in meat and cheese? If so, be warned. A new study suggests eating a diet rich in meat and cheese could cause your body to go into acid-overload and increase your risk of type II diabetes. Here are the details of the study.

French researchers suggest too much of certain foods can make your body unhealthily acidic. This acid-overload means you could be at risk of serious health conditions like type II diabetes.

Here’s why eating a diet rich in meat and cheese could be dangerous

According to a report by Mail Online, researchers found that women who consume higher quantities of meat, cheese, eggs, fish, bread and soft drinks are around 50% more likely to develop diabetes, even if they also ate lots of fruit and vegetables.

Researchers believe the problem is that foods such as meat and cheese are acid-producing.

The report explains that, like all living things, your body has a pH (power of hydrogen) level - a number between zero and 14 which tells you how acidic or alkaline it is. Zero is completely acidic, 14 is completely alkaline. Your body pH should be neutral, at seven, in order for the cells and tissues to function properly.

When foods are broken down by the body they naturally produce acids or alkalis, a process known as the acid load.

But it’s not just that foods which seem to be ‘acidic’ add to the acidic load, says Marie Murphy, a nutrition scientist with the British Nutrition Foundation. It depends on how the body processes it.

“For example, an orange has a low pH due to its citric acid content, yet once ingested it is thought to have an alkali effect upon the body. This is to do with the nutrients it releases in the body,” she says in the Mail Online report.

Meats, fish, seafood, cheese, eggs, bread, oats, pasta and rice, processed foods and fizzy drinks all produce acids when broken down, while coffee, fruit and vegetables are alkaline.

When you eat a balanced diet of fibre, protein, carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, the acidic and alkaline foods neutralise each other.

But researchers think a Western diet rich in foods that produce acid can lead to an acid load on the body that isn’t compensated for by fruit and vegetables.

They think this may cause metabolic complications including type II diabetes.

Should you reduce your intake of high-acid foods to lower your risk of type II diabetes?

Researchers say there’s no doubt foods have an impact on the body’s pH, but your body maintains its pH level regardless of diet.

“Nutrients within foods have the potential to influence the acid-alkali balance of the body by increasing or decreasing the pH levels,” explains Murphy.

“However, the body has very effective mechanisms of maintaining its acid-base balance and any influences from foods that disrupt this balance are corrected by the body's regulatory system which keeps everything stable, for example, the excretion of urinary acid through the kidneys.”

Murphy also added that there’s actually very little evidence that the acid-producing properties of food have any significant impact on health.

In the report, Professor Tom Sanders, head of diabetes and nutritional sciences at King’s College London, shares Murphy’s sentiments.

“It [study] doesn’t prove that a high-acid diet causes type II diabetes or even that there is a definite link between the two. Even if a high-acid diet did increase the chance of developing the disease, the risk would be small compared with other, more established risk factors,” said Professor Sanders.

While the study found those eating a high-acid diet were 56% more likely to develop type II diabetes compared with those eating a low-acid diet. Researchers say further studies are needed before they can be confident there really is a link between diets high in acid-producing foods and an increased risk of type II diabetes.

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