Sunday, June 28, 2009

Acid loads in diet affecting bones and kidneys?

Hello Monique, I read your article about Building Strong Bones. I have read similar things in other articles about soy. However, one question I have is about the meat vs. vegetarian diet in regard to the acid load created on the kidneys. I too have read this theory, however, in getting more in depth on the subject of acid/alkaline balance I have also read that foods such as beans and grains are just as acid forming as meat.

I have been I life long vegetarian, and had been assuming that the acid load would therefore not affect me. However based on my reading and my own tests I tend to think that we vegetarians are just as much at risk from acid loading. We vegetarians have to limit our intake of grains and beans and make sure to eat a lot of green vegetables to avoid over acidity. From what I gather soy beans are not acid forming, but many sources say tofu is acid forming.

I would appreciate any additional information you can give me. I was diagnosed with osteoporosis when I turned 40. I have been researching this for 3 years, but there is alot of conflicting information. Thank you, Pam

Answer: All foods have a pH balance that makes them either acidic or alkaline. You are right in that we need to strike a balance in these and eat more green leafy vegetables. However, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has indicated that animal-based foods and proteins cause much more of an increase in acidity in our blood than do plant-based foods and proteins. They believe that a vegetarian diet is still healthier for our bones. So while we may have plant-based foods which are acidic in our diet, these foods do not cause the same detrimental effects to our bones and kidneys that animal-based foods do.

According to the PCRM, "Animal proteins cause calcium to be leached from the bones and excreted in the urine where it can form stones. Diets rich in animal proteins also increase uric acid excretion. In a controlled research study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, research subjects on a diet eliminating animal protein had less than half the calcium loss that they had on their baseline diet.(12)

The Harvard study mentioned earlier found that even a modest increase in animal protein, from less than 50 grams to 77 grams per day, was associated with a 33 percent increased risk of stones in men.(7) The same is true for women. The Nurses' Health Study, a long-term study of health factors in a large group of women, revealed an even greater risk of stones from animal protein than was found in previous studies in men.(9)

The association between animal proteins and stones probably relates both to the amount of protein they contain and to their content of the sulfur-containing amino acids. In particular, the sulfur in cystine and methionine is converted to sulfate, which tends to acidify the blood. As a part of the process of neutralizing this acid, bone is dissolved, and bone calcium ends up in the urine. Meats and eggs contain two to five times more of these sulfur-containing amino acids than are found in grains and beans.(11,13)"

For more information, read...

(1) "Protecting Your Bones" at

(2) "Calcium in Plant-Based Diets" at

(3) "The Protein Myth: The Building Blocks of Life" at

(4) "Nutrition Education Curriculum, Section Six: Nutrition and Renal Disease" at
(5) "Be Young and Healthy By Building Strong Bones" with a recipe for "Garlic Herb Dip" at

Also, for recipes and more information about a healthy vegetarian and vegan diet, read my bookVirtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook

Other Recommended Books...

Plant Based Nutrition and Health
by Stephen Walsh

The New Becoming Vegetarian: The Essential Guide To A Healthy Vegetarian Diet
by Vesanto Melina & Brenda Davis

Vegan with a Vengeance : Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipes That Rock
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Becoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Plant-Based Diet
by Brenda Davis & Vesanto Melina

Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World
by Bob Torres, Jenna Torres

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Cooking
by Beverly Lynn Bennett and Ray Sammartano

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Monique N. Gilbert, BSc. has offered guidance in health, nutrition, fitness and stress management since 1989. Through her writings, Monique motivates and teaches how to improve your well-being, vitality and longevity with balanced nutrition, physical activity and healthy stress-free living.

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