Every now and again I like to get the dirt on supplements from a first person perspective, and this is a great way to do so.
When discussing the acid/base balance in the body, there are many factors that contribute to this, such as the base levels in the body, which are affected by diet, and the acid levels which are affected by absorption. We will cover the various aspects of this balance in this article, and discuss a few studies which have been conducted and which have shown that the green leafy vegetables in the diet can have an effect on the acid/base balance of the body.
Informal experiments: Do greens supplements improve acid/base status? Recently I wrote about the benefits of greens supplements, and so I decided to open a can of worms. I investigated the acid/base status of some greens where possible (I didn’t have exact pH values for some of them), and compared it to the acid/base status of some greens that were not supplemented with greens supplements. Here are some of the results:
Why do we worry about acid/base?
JB published an eye-opening essay a few years ago on how our meals may have a significant impact on our bodies’ acid-base balance.
Every single item we consume, from eggs to eggplant, may either cause an acid burden or an alkaline load in the body. Most proteins and grains (foods that are quite prevalent in the contemporary diet) cause the body to become acidic. Furthermore, most fruits and vegetables (foods that are rather rare in the contemporary diet) cause the body to become alkaline.
So, what’s the point? So here’s the deal: our bodies’ acid/base balance has to be carefully controlled, or else things may go crazy – like, we die and everything. And, in today’s contemporary nutritional environment, our meals, which are usually rich in acid, continually test this tight control.
Our bodies now contain buffering mechanisms: chemical processes that rapidly neutralize these food acids, keeping our pH (acid/base balance) in check. Our cells, on the other hand, suffer when we consume a high acid diet over an extended length of time.
Here are a few of the negative effects of a high-acid diet:
- Thyroid hormone concentrations are lower.
- Stress hormones have risen (cortisol and catecholamines)
- Anabolic hormones have been reduced (growth hormone and IGF)
- Muscle and bone loss
Needless to say, this is not a favorable situation. And it’s just getting worse. We continue to bring more acids into the body as we consume more meat and grains and less fruits and vegetables as a society. As a consequence, there is greater muscle loss, fat accumulation, osteoporosis, and illness.
The Answer Is
Again, as JB pointed out in his essay, eating more fruits and vegetables is a simple answer to our pH issues — approximately 8-10 servings per day for leisure exercisers and 12-15 servings for athletes.
However, according to the study, only around 95 percent of the population consumes three servings each day. Is it reasonable to expect people to move from 2 to 10 servings? That’s a bit of a stretch.
As a result, several nutritional supplement firms have developed a “green food supplements” category. Green dietary supplements, like protein powders, are powdered fruits and vegetables that you may combine with water, milk, juice, or anything else you choose. They’re designed to help make up for the fact that we don’t get enough fruits and vegetables in our diets.
These supplements are promoted as magical health potions that may enhance the way you look, feel, and perform by providing vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and a good acid/base balanced alkaline load.
At least, that’s what the commercials claim.
Greens+ vs.’s Informal Experiments team
Greens+, a product created by a man named Sam Graci, was perhaps the one supplement that single-handedly started the green food frenzy. This product promises to have the antioxidant power of 6-10 organic salads and was created using a variety of vegetables, herbs, and other allegedly beneficial components.
We thought where better to start than at the top, because greens+ is still the best-selling green food product on the market today. Greens+ was chosen to be put to the test. We were particularly interested in seeing whether this “super food” product could live up to at least one of its promises, if not the most significant.
To put it another way, does greens+ help the body’s acid/base balance?
Previous product study has shown the following:
- greens+ has a high PRAL rating (a measure of alkalinity outside of the body)
- greens+ has a high ORAC value (a measure of its antioxidant ability outside of the body)
- In tissue cultures, greens+ may aid bone development (again, in Petri dishes outside of the body)
That’s all great and dandy… However, all of this study was conducted outside of the human body, in a laboratory. And, although it’s a nice start, the big question is what happens when you take the substance. It’s a good thing a few human studies were conducted. It was shown in this human study that
- greens+ may help you feel more energized and happy.
- greens+ may protect the body from oxidative (free radical) damage.
It’s very cool. One label claim, however, remained unproven. No one bothered to see whether greens+ might really enhance the body’s acid/base balance… up till now
The greens+ experiment was a success
In our Informal Experiment, we invited 34 individuals (17 men and 17 women) to our greens+ party who had never used any greens product and were not on any prescription medications.
The guys were on average 31 years old and weighed 190 pounds. The ladies were 36 years old on average and weighed 155 pounds. These people were sent the following once they agreed to participate:
- Instructions in detail
- A data collection form (in Microsoft Excel format)
- Urine test strips in a container (to measure pH)
- a jar of berry-flavored greens that hasn’t been labeled+
Participants were asked to monitor their urinary pH during the first week of the Informal Experiment by collecting their first morning pee in a small glass container and dipping it in a pH test strip.
pH test strips change color depending on the pH of the urine. Participants reported their morning pH after testing their urine pH. They did this for seven days in a row. They did not take greens+ at this period. Without taking the supplement, they merely tested the pH of their urine.
Following that, participants began taking the greens product, one serving in the morning and one in the evening, once the seven days were over. They tested their urine pH for a total of 14 days as stated above.
They were not allowed to alter their diet or exercise regimen during this period. They were also told not to start using any new vitamins or medicines. Finally, they were unaware of the kind of greens supplement they were taking since they got an unlabeled bottle of greens+ (in other words, they had no idea what was in it).
The greens+ outcomes
We’ve arrived to the crux of the matter. Our Informal Experiment participants would observe increases in their urine pH if greens+ improves urinary acid/base balance. Lower pH levels, on the other hand, indicate that the urine is more acidic. And higher levels indicate a more basic urine.
If greens+ fails to deliver on its promises, we will either observe no change in urine pH or a decrease in urinary pH. So, what did we come across?
|Week 1 average pH (without greens+)||Week 2’s average pH (with greens+)||Week 3’s average pH (with greens+)|
|+/- 0.04 = 6.07||6.21 +/- 0.03* +/- 0.03* +/- 0.03* +/-||6.27 +/- 0.06* +/- 0.06* +/- 0.06* +/-|
Surprisingly, participants in this Informal Experiment started with pH levels that were below optimum, but with the addition of greens+, they were able to reach the appropriate range (6.2–7.0). It’s good news.
Changes in average pH over time with greens+
*Note: For you statisticians, the changes between week 1 and weeks 2 and 3 were statistically significant at the p<0.01 level. For you non-statisticians, this means that when subjected to statistical scrutiny, greens+ definitely changed urinary pH in a positive way.
When we looked at the individuals individually, we observed the following:
- A higher (basic) urine pH was seen in 62% of the individuals, which is a positive sign.
- The pH of the urine was found to be lower (more acidic) in 29% of the individuals, which is not good.
- There was no change in urine pH in 9% of the individuals, which is considered neutral.
So, what happened to those who didn’t see any difference or viewed it as a bad change? Surprisingly, the discrepancy is explained by the starting pH levels.
Those who saw no change or unfavorable alterations had higher (more basic) urine pH levels to begin with (6.29). And those who saw favorable improvements had lower (more acidic) urine pH levels to begin with (5.49). As a result, it seems that greens are more effective for individuals who have more acidic pee than for those who have more alkaline urine to begin with.
That’s all there is to it. We put greens+ to the test and discovered that it did, in fact, live up to one of its label promises. Here’s what we discovered:
- Urinary pH was below optimum in the whole group prior to supplementation. The group was just excessively acidic on average.
- Greens+ supplements raised urinary pH in the group as a whole, boosting alkalinity in the urine and likely enhancing the body’s acid/base balance.
- Greens+ supplementation moved these individuals’ pH levels within the ideal range in general.
- Not everyone benefited in the same way, as with most treatments. It’s possible that this is due to various pH starting points. Those who start with a higher pH seem to profit less than those who start with a lower pH.
To summarize, if you presently consume a diet rich in proteins and/or grains and low in fruits and vegetables, you are likely excessively acidic. You’d be a great candidate for supplementing with a product like greens+ in that scenario.
Informal Experiments Has Taken on a Life of Its Own!
So, apart from getting all of this wonderful information to you, the PN readers, what did we do with it? Of course, send it to an academic journal! Here’s the scholarly edition, fresh off the press:
John M. Berardi, Alan C. Logan, and A Venket Rao. Urinary pH is raised by a plant-based dietary supplement. 2008, 5:20doi:10.1186/1550-2783-5-20 Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition [Link to study’s complete text]
The net acid load of the average Western diet has been shown to have the ability to impact several areas of human health, including osteoporosis risk/progression, obesity, cardiovascular disease risk/progression, and general well-being, according to research. Because urine pH is a good proxy for dietary acid load, this research looked at whether a plant-based dietary supplement promoted to enhance alkalinity had the intended effect on urinary pH. Methods: The urine pH of 34 healthy men and women (33.9+/-1.57 y, 79.3 +/-3.1 kg) was monitored for seven days without supplementation using pH test strips to establish a baseline pH. Urinary pH was evaluated for a further 14 days when individuals consumed the plant-based nutritional supplement beyond the first baseline period. pH readings at baseline and throughout the treatment period were compared at the conclusion of the study to evaluate the supplement’s effectiveness. The plant-based dietary supplement raised mean urine pH statistically (p=0.03). During the baseline period, the mean urine pH was 6.07 +/- 0.04, increasing to 6.21 +/- 0.03 during the first week of therapy and 6.27+/-0.06 during the second week of treatment. Conclusions: For at least seven days, supplementing with a plant-based food product raises urine pH, possibly boosting body alkalinity.
That concludes this installment of Informal Experiments. Keep an eye out for more exciting experiments in the future. Keep a look out for our recruitment announcements if you wish to be a part of one of these future initiatives.
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When taken as directed, most green supplements provide a modest amount of nutrients. But does that matter? Most of these supplements are not regulated in any way, so you don’t know what you are actually consuming. Also, most studies are done on animals, which have fundamentally different physiology than humans, so the results may not apply. Also, humans have different genetic makeups that means the way we respond to a treatment can vary from one person to another.. Read more about greens powder vs multivitamin and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do greens Alkalize the body?
Yes, greens are alkalizing to the body.
What do super greens do for you?
Super greens are a type of food that has been shown to have many health benefits. They are high in antioxidants and nutrients, which may help with weight loss, heart health, and more.
Is Green acidic or alkaline?
Green is a color that is on the spectrum of acid-neutral.