Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Don’t go with the Flow

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The above promoted tweet showed-up in my feed recently. Ugh. Can we get any more ridiculous? We don’t need special alkaline water and the benefits spouted by Flow are unsubstantiated.

In case you were wondering, the normal pH value of “raw” water ranges from 6.5-9.5. It’s generally somewhere in the middle of this range. According to the WHO, while there’s no health-based guideline proposed for pH, at values higher than 11 eye irritation and exacerbation of skin disorders may occur. At values under 4 redness and irritation of the eyes may occur, and at values less than 2.5 severe and irreversible damage to the skin occurs.

The pH of tap water has to be controlled to avoid damaging the pipes through which it travels. It also needs to be less than 8 for disinfection with chlorine to be effective. Hence, tap water usually has a pH between 7.1 and 8.0, neutral-slightly alkaline.

Despite it’s pH being its claim to fame, Flow doesn’t list the pH value of its water on the website. However, according to an article in the National Post, the founder of the company says it’s “about 8.1”. Essentially, a touch more alkaline than tap water. At slightly over $2 for a 500 ml bottle, it’s considerably more expensive than tap water though.

As I’ve discussed before, your body does an excellent job of “balancing acidity levels” all on its own. You don’t need to spend money on overpriced water to maintain a healthy pH.


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Simple diet “tweaks” trashed

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For a special summer treat I picked-up a copy of the British Glamour (it’s so much better than the American version!). I was a little disappointed (although not very surprised) to see a list of simple diet tweaks provided by a doctor.

  1. “Milk and coffee together are very hard to digest – so swap the dairy for soya, rice or almond milk” 

There is no scientific basis for this claim as far as I can tell. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using a milk alternative in your coffee, or drinking it black, but unless you have difficulty digesting milk anyway adding it to your coffee shouldn’t be an issue.

2. “Squirt half a lemon or put a spoon of apple cider vinegar into a bottle of water; ti makes your body less acidic and more alkaline”

Actually, your body has an excellent pH buffering system and consuming certain types of foods may affect the pH of your urine but it will have no impact on the acidity of your blood.

3. “Always have fruit first – not at the end of a meal. It can ferment in your gut and makes digestion more difficult.”

This myth has been making the round for years. It fails to acknowledge the basic process of digestion. Your stomach churns all of the food together with your gastric juices. That apple is going to get nicely mixed in with the rest of your food whether you eat it at the beginning or the end of your meal. There is no way that a piece of fruit is going to be sitting in your stomach long enough, nor will it be exposed to the necessary bacteria, to undergo fermentation. Eat your fruit whenever you damn please.

4. “Give your digestive system a rest by ‘food combining’ – have carbs and soup or salad for lunch, and fish or chicken with cooked vegetables for dinner.”

This is not going to give your digestive system any sort of break. It still has to operate to digest whatever foodstuffs you consume, be they carbs, fats, or proteins. All this is going to do is make eating a much more complicated affair and make it difficult to obtain all of your nutrients. Far better to have a combination of these macronutrients at each meal to ensure that you’re getting all of your nutrients and to promote satiety. After all, that lunch of just carbs is likely to leave you ravenous and pave the way for overeating at suppertime.


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PHlavor leaves a bad taste in my mouth

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I somehow stumbled across this blog Articles of Health the other day. I was a little baffled by this “research scientist” promoting the use of some sort of liquid salt obtained from the Great Salt Lake. According to this Robert O. Young, standard table salt is toxic and is putting the PH balance of our bodies in jeopardy. Instead, we should be consuming this liquid salt which provides many cures for common ailments such as ear infections, all sorts of imbalances, psoriasis, nasal congestion, etc. Interestingly enough, this liquid salt from the Great Lake is said to be superior to your regular sea salt or rock salt because “The oceans are being used as dumping grounds for harmful toxic poisons”. Funny, that the Great Salt Lake should be immune to pollutants. Not that Wikipedia is the be-all and end-all, but I found these statements about the Great Salt Lake quite interesting: “US Geological Survey and US Fish & Wildlife researchers, originally studying selenium levels in the lake, discovered some of the highest levels of methyl-mercury they had ever seen, at 25 nanograms per liter of water.” And: “Food-grade salt is not produced from the lake, as it would require further costly processing to ensure its purity.” The bottom of Young’s post contains a link to an online store for purchase of his magical salt.

I was curious about a research scientist who would blatantly promote such a product so I googled him. The second hit was a lovely in-depth article on Quack Watch: A Critical Look at “Dr.” Robert O. Young’s Theories and Credentials. Highlights include the fact that much of his alleged medical training is suspect. His views are not supported by any scientific research. In addition, as you (hopefully) already know, the notion of an alkaline diet is absolute hogwash.

The idea that dietary modification can change the acidity of the body is silly. Homeostatic mechanisms keep the acidity of the blood stream within a narrow range. Certain foods can leave end-products called ash. Alkaline-ash foods include fresh fruit and raw vegetables. Acid-ash foods include all animal products, whole grains, beans, and other seeds. These foods can change the acidity of the urine (but not the body as a whole), but that’s irrelevant since your urine is contained in your bladder and does not affect the pH elsewhere in the body [12]. Thus, even if “body pH” were a primary cause of disease, the strategies the Youngs propose would not influence it in the way they claim.

This liquid salt is not going to provide superior benefits to other forms of salt. In fact, if it is actually obtained from the Great Salt Lake as Young claims, it’s quite likely to provide more toxins than traditional forms of salt. Never trust a “doctor” who is going to receive financial benefit from providing you with a “cure”.