Osteoporosis and mineral loss
In order to help buffer excess acid buildup, it may become necessary for the body to draw upon its alkali mineral stores. The bones, of course, represent the body’s largest storehouse of mineral reserves, but mineral stores can also be found in the teeth and various organs. Although occasional periods of mineral withdrawal from bones, teeth, and organs usually do not cause health problems, consistent mineral withdrawal, or demineralization—especially of calcium, magnesium, and potassium—can lead to serious disorders.
One of the most common of these problems is osteoporosis, a condition of extreme bone fragility and increased low-trauma fracture risk. In fact, at this writing, some 10 million Americans over the age of 50 have osteoporosis, and an additional 34 million are at risk because of their low bone mass.
There is a clear link between osteoporosis and chronic low-grade metabolic acidosis. Around the world, the incidence of osteoporotic fractures varies by at least 30-fold, with low-trauma fractures—the hallmark of osteoporosis—being rare in cultures that follow diets and lifestyle patterns conducive to proper acid-alkaline balance. A variety of population-based studies now document the association between a high intake of alkaline-forming foodstuffs (mainly vegetables and fruits) and bone health. The beneficial effect of vegetable and fruit intake on bone mass is evident not only in premenopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal women—those at greatest risk of osteoporosis—but also in growing girls and men.
Furthermore, a large cross-cultural survey (1) indicated that those countries with the lowest incidence of hip fracture also have the lowest consumption of acid-producing animal protein, and, usually, a consumption of vegetable protein that exceeds their intake of animal products. Of course, the diets enjoyed by these cultures are very different from the typical Western diet, which is high in acid-forming animal proteins, and low in alkaline-forming, pH-balancing foods.
Other related problems
Unfortunately, chronic bone mineral loss also contributes to other bone-related conditions, including rheumatism, osteoarthritis, and degeneration of the disks of the spine. Spinal degeneration, in turn, can result in other problems, such as chronic back pain and sciatica.
Moreover, the long-term loss of minerals can diminish the health of teeth, making them more brittle, more sensitive to hot and cold foods, more prone to cavities, and more susceptible to chipping—problems that are common in Western countries, but rare in cultures with diets that promote acid-alkaline balance.
Chronic mineral loss can also affect the skin and nails. Lack of minerals often leads to dry skin that itches, cracks easily, and shows signs of premature aging. Mineral loss can also lead to brittle fingernails and toenails that are prone to cracking and splitting. Other conditions commonly associated with chronic mineral loss include thinning hair and bleeding or overly sensitive gums.
- Abelow, B. J., et al. 1992. Cross-cultural association between dietary animal protein and hip fracture: A hypothesis. Calcified Tissue International 50(1):14–18.