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The Acid/Base Diet was developed when a French biologist discovered that changing rabbits’ diets from an herbivorous to a carnivorous one resulted in a change in their urinary pH, which is a measure of acidity. As omnivores, humans’ urinary pH ranges from acidic to alkaline but is generally close to neutral. It has been theorized by some that a diet high in acid-forming foods encourages the breakdown of bone in order to return blood pH to normal. This, in turn, leads to osteoporosis and the theory that the acidic environment created by the acid-forming foods predisposes one to both kidney stones and cancer. 


Can an Alkaline Diet Prevent Cancer?

So far, meta-analyses have found no correlation between dietary acid and bone health – alkaline diets are not terribly helpful with cancer nutrition. In addition, there have been no studies supporting the acid/base diet as protective against cancer. It has been observed in test tube studies, however, that certain cancers may grow faster in acidic solutions and some chemotherapy drugs may be more effective in alkaline environments. These observations have not been tested in humans, so no further assumptions can be made.

Of interest, cancer researchers are investigating ways to alter the pH of cancer treatment medications, so they can better penetrate into tumors. This is an exciting line of study, but it doesn’t point to any benefit of trying to “de-acidify” the body overall as part of cancer treatment.


What is the role of diet in body acidity and alkalinity?

We do know that over the long term, nutrients such as phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium, all of which can affect acidity, may play a role in specific health conditions. For example, it has long been believed that a diet with too much phosphorus and not enough calcium and magnesium, may contribute to osteoporosis. The theory is that the body pulls calcium from bones for use as a buffer against the acidifying effects of phosphorus, and to help metabolize the excess phosphorus. This is one reason why a phosphorus-heavy diet (processed foods, animal foods, cola-type sodas), had been thought to contribute to bone loss. However, even this theory has come under scrutiny in recent years. Some researchers have shown a higher phosphate diet and more acidic urine may actually decrease calcium and bone loss [i][ii].

The above example focuses on specific minerals, so let’s return to the general diet question. It is clear that the food-related factor that most impacts acidity and alkalinity – within that very narrow range – is total diet patterns. In general, the more plant-based the diet, the more alkaline the blood and urine tend to be. Overall, animal foods tend to increase acidity, while plant foods tend to decrease it.

There are exceptions – cranberries and plums, for example, tend to increase acidity – but most vegetables and fruit, even if acidic in nature (think citrus), actually create more alkalinity in the body. Research shows that vegans are the least ‘acidic,’ followed closely by vegetarians, and then by omnivores. The bottom line is that eating more plants will make the urine less acidic, and likely, the body less overall as well [iii].


What about alkalinizing dietary supplements?

I know of a naturopath who recommends his clients who have acidic urine take high, daily doses of magnesium sulfate mixed in selzer water, to “alkalinize” the body. This does alkalinize the urine immediately, though many people who try this end up with loose stools and even diarrhea. Unfortunately, even though magnesium is a mineral that tends to decrease body acidity, it’s not a good idea for most people to take high doses of it over the long-term. Remember milk of magnesia, the laxative? Magnesium is the ingredient that causes the laxative effect.

If you want to increase magnesium intake without the unpleasant side effects, plants are a great solution. In particular, try greens. One serving of spinach, chard, collards, kale, purslane, or other green leafy vegetables has about 2 to 3 times the RDA – now called the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) – for magnesium.


Back to Alkaline Food 

Inevitably, when I explain what we do and don’t know about the relationship between alkalinity in the body and cancer, I am asked for a list of foods. Which ones are alkalinizing and which foods increase acidity?

Nearly all vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, spices and herbs, and the sweeteners honey and molasses make the urine less acidic. Exceptions include cranberries, plums and prunes, and corn. which tend to make the urine, and possibly the body, more acidic. This doesn’t mean you need to avoid them, because what matters, is the overall dietary pattern. If most of the vegetables and fruit you eat fall in the “alkaline category,” the overall effect will be to alkalinize your urine.

As an example of how a mix of “alkaline” and “acid” foods can still result in less acidic urine, consider vegetarians and vegans. Despite the fact that most grains fall into the “acid food” category, and that most vegetarians and vegans eat plenty of grains, these two groups still have much more alkaline urine than omnivores. Clearly, the fact that the rest of a vegetarian diet is comprised of “alkaline foods,” outweighs the acidifying effect of grains.

Meat, poultry, cheese, fish, eggs, fats and oils, sweets, and most grains (as noted above) are “acidifying,” for the urine at any rate. Milk and dairy are considered neutral to slightly acid. Nuts, seeds, and legumes (beans and peas) are a mix, with some falling into the “acid” category and others being considered “alkaline,” in terms of urine.

It is likely that eating a mix of nuts, seeds, and legumes from each “category of acid/alkaline foods”, on balance, will not significantly alter urine pH. Again, despite the fact that some nuts and legumes are “acid forming,” and that vegetarians and vegans eat large amounts of these foods, these groups of people produce less acidic urine than omnivores. As far as beverages, tea, coffee, vegetable juice and most fruit juices tend to make urine less acidic.


Alkaline Diet: Is it safe?

Some Acid/Base Diet advocates advise testing the pH of your saliva or urine to determine the overall acid/base balance of your body, but this is not a good indicator. The fact is, the human body does not function as one unit; different organs function better at different pH’s. It is impossible to manipulate your body’s pH to any extreme and by doing so can place additional stress on you renal and respiratory systems to accommodate the Acid/Base Diet. In fact, diet can at most only very slightly and temporarily alter your body’s pH.

Other risks associated with the Acid/Base diet include:

  • Encourages the consumption of large amounts of alkaline-forming food and the restriction of acid-forming food. These recommendations can contribute to deficiencies of protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, Calcium, fiber, and phytonutrients. 
  • While most vegetables are allowed on this diet and processed foods, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol are discouraged, there are limitations regarding which seeds, nuts, grains, beans, peas, meat, fish, dairy, fruits, and fats are permitted because of their acidity.  These restrictions can limit the beneficial cancer-fighting phytonutrients and antioxidants in these foods.
  • The lack of scientific evidence for the effectiveness of the Acid/Base Diet and the potential for malnourishment discourage many Registered Dietitians from recommending this diet to their clients. The American Institute for Cancer Research has also labeled the Acid/Base Diet and its underlying theory a myth.


Does it matter why eating more plants decreases acidity?

Personally, I find it convenient that the very same nutrition approach that alkalinizes the urine (and probably the body overall), also is the thing that appears to reduce cancer risk. Available studies in humans support that a plant-based diet – a diet in which the bulk of calories come from minimally processed plant foods including vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains – happens to reduce cancer risk and possibly reduce risk of recurrence, and to alkalinize the body [iv].

In the end, if the motivation of an alkaline diet helps a person make healthier choices that can simultaneously reduce acidity and reduce disease risk, does it matter? I do believe that why people eats healthier isn’t as important as that they simply do it. Reducing disease risk – cancer, heart disease, obesity, stroke, dementia – is the goal. To make a long story short, if people are interested in ‘alkalinizing,’ it’s helpful to focus on diet patterns.


[i] Fenton, Tanis R., Andrew W. Lyon, Michael Eliasziw, Suzanne C. Tough, and David A. Hanley. “Phosphate Decreases Urine Calcium and Increases Calcium Balance: A Meta-analysis of the Osteoporosis Acid-ash Diet Hypothesis.” Nutrition Journal 8.1 (2009): 41-56.
[ii] Fenton, Tanis R., Suzanne C. Tough, Andrew W. Lyon, Misha Eliasziw, and David A. Hanley. “Causal Assessment of Dietary Acid Load and Bone Disease: A Systematic Review & Meta-analysis Applying Hill’s Epidemiologic Criteria for Causality.” Nutrition Journal 10.1 (2011): 41-64.
[iii] Ausman, L.M; Oliver, L.M; Goldin, B.R; etal. Estimated net acid excretion inversely correlates with urine pH in vegans, lacto-ovo vegetarians, and omnivores. 2008. Journal of Renal Nutrition V18 (5) Pp 456-465.
[iv] Mosby, T. T.; Cosgrove, M.; etal. Nutrition in adult and childhood cancer: role of carcinogens and anti-carcinogens. 2012. Anticancer Research V32(10) 4171-4192

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Susan started Savor Health after losing a close friend to a brain tumor and, through that experience, becoming aware of the significant unmet nutritional needs of people with cancer.  Struck by the fact that her friend was told “nutrition doesn’t matter” and “eat whatever you want,” Susan read the evidence-based literature on the subject, interviewed oncologists, oncology nurses and oncology dietitians, as well as patients and caregivers, and found that, in fact, nutrition does matter in oncology. Armed with solid scientific evidence supporting the clinical and quality of life benefits of proper nutrition, Susan left Wall Street and created Savor Health, an AI-based provider of personalized and clinically appropriate nutrition solutions for cancer patients, their caregivers and health enterprises. Susan brings to Savor Health over 25 years of industry experience in healthcare and business as well as expertise in strategy, finance and management.

Susan is an outspoken and tireless advocate for cancer patients receiving proper nutrition and nutrition support before, during and after treatment. She strongly believes that the U. S. healthcare system requires new innovation to transform it into a more holistic and integrated system of care whereby multiple disciplines coordinate care together for the benefit of the whole patient. As part of this, her goal is for nutrition to be an integral component of such an integrated cancer care delivery system.  Susan’s commitment to the field of oncology extends beyond Savor Health to volunteer work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in pediatrics and as a runner for Fred’s Team to raise money for research at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Susan participated in the Cancer Moonshot in June of 2016 where she was a breakout session group “igniter” tasked with starting and leading discussion. Susan’s first book, the Meals to Heal Cancer Cookbook, was published in March 2016.

In addition to her role as CEO of Savor Health, Susan speaks nationally about the importance of ensuring proper nutrition in the cancer patient and on topics including leadership and startups. She has been a speaker at the Harvard Medical School’s Career Advancement and Leadership Skills for Women in Healthcare, ESMO World Congress on GI Cancer, BioPharm America, AARP Live @50+, Lake Nona Impact Forum, and IIR ePharma Summit.

Prior to starting Savor Health, Susan had a successful career on Wall Street as a healthcare services investment banker working at prestigious firms including Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, Wasserstein Perella and Robertson Stephens. Susan earned a B.A. from Duke University and M.B.A. from the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business.

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Marissa Buchan is a registered dietitian, with advanced practice certifications in Oncology Nutrition (CSO) and Clinical Research (CCRP). She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Duke University, and Master’s of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Marissa worked for 10 years at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in both the clinical research and nutrition departments.  In addition to counseling patients before, during, and after cancer therapy, she spearheaded nutrition-research efforts for the bone marrow transplant service. She has co-authored over 20 articles and has a particular interest in the role of nutrition on the intestinal microbiota and its impact on patient outcomes. When Marissa’s not wearing her lab coat, she’s in her apron whipping up healthy and delicious recipes that you can find on her blog, Get Off Your Tush and Cook.

Marissa is Chief Operating Officer of Savor Health where she leads operations working with the technology, clinical, and business development teams and management. Prior to assuming the role of COO in March 2020, Marissa was Vice President, Clinical Research and Operations at Savor Health where she worked closely with Savor Health’s Chief Medical Advisor, Scientific Advisory Board, and Clinical Operations Team to evaluate, design and conduct clinical research.  She also counsels patients on oncology nutrition issues and contributes to the Company website’s clinical content.

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Dr. DeFrance has a unique background including clinical interventional cardiologist, chief medical officer, educator, outcomes researcher and entrepreneur. He has expertise in Lifestyle medicine in which he was board certified in 2020 and is highly interested in the prevention and reversal of chronic disease. Dr. DeFrance also has expertise in appropriate utilization of technology in medicine, healthcare economics, value-based metrics, and educational design and delivery. He worked as Chief Medical Officer for HealthHelp, one of the largest specialty benefit managers in the US, and led large teams of healthcare professionals in writing evidence based appropriate care guidelines and rule sets which improve the quality and safety of medicine for over 20 million people in the US while also creating sustained savings in healthcare. He has also designed clinical decision support systems that are currently in use helping to improve patient care.

In 2018 Dr. DeFrance founded MedMentor Education, a company that provides state of the art CME content using the latest in eLearning science and online delivery platforms. Dr. DeFrance is also the founder and President of Digimedica, a consulting and educational design and delivery company for healthcare professionals, hospitals, and universities. He is passionate about creating systems to optimize knowledge transfer and has won numerous awards for teaching excellence during his career. He is an expert in cardiovascular CT imaging and has taught more than 3,000 physicians how to perform and interpret cardiac CT nationally and internationally and has lectured extensively on this subject.

Dr. DeFrance has a stellar reputation in the medical field and continues work to improve the quality and safety of patient care in the US.

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Alyson is a registered nurse and is certified in oncology nursing (OCN) through the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS). She also has her certification as an ONS Biotherapy and Chemotherapy Provider. Alyson studied nursing at Thomas Jefferson University where she obtained her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). Since starting her nursing career in 2004, Alyson has had a strong dedication and commitment to oncology patients. She has worked inpatient specializing in Bone Marrow and Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation. Alyson currently works in outpatient oncology at the North Shore-LIJ Monter Cancer Center. Alyson is part of the clinical team at Savor Health where she counsels patients on oncology and oncology nutrition issues and contributes to website and other Savor Health content.

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Chelsey is a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology nutrition (CSO). She completed her Dietetic Internship at Northwell Health, received her BS in Dietetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her MS in Nutrition at Stony Brook University’s School of Medicine. Chelsey works as an outpatient dietitian at Mount Sinai covering all of the downtown cancer services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel and Philips Ambulatory Care Center. Chelsey works with patients and families before, during and after treatment to optimize their nutrition through dietary counseling and support. Chelsey has experience counseling clients with a variety of diagnoses including breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, head & neck cancer, and more. Chelsey also enjoys sharing nutrition knowledge with her peers by running a monthly Employee Wellness program that showcases healthy topics, recipes and food demos.

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Michelle is a Registered Dietitian specializing in oncology. She works as a clinical dietitian at an ambulatory cancer center in New York City and is a consultant for Savor Health. She is passionate about educating oncology patients on the importance of nutrition during their fight against cancer and helping them to optimize their nutrition through all phases of treatment. Michelle received her Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University.

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Denise Sievering is a Registered Dietitian who is board certified in Oncology Nutrition as well as Nutrition Support. A fluent Spanish speaker, Denise joined the Savor Health team to support Spanish speaking cancer patients and to continue to expand the Platform’s nutritional strategies and recommendations in Spanish. Denise holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Rutgers University, and completed her internship at New York Presbyterian Hospital (NYP). Denise started her career as a registered dietitian at NYP-Columbia University Medical Center, primarily covering inpatient Oncology units. Denise also holds a Master of Arts degree in Mental Health Counseling from New York University, and incorporates her advanced training in motivational interviewing and empathic listening in her patient encounters, particularly those whose lives have been forever changed by a cancer diagnosis. A New Jersey native, Denise now resides in sunny San Diego, CA where she works as a part-time outpatient Oncology dietitian at Scripps Health-MD Anderson Cancer Center, and also works as an inpatient dietitian at Kaiser Permanente. In her spare time, Denise can be found at a mom-and-pop taco shop, one of the many local craft breweries, and exploring her new city of San Diego with her husband and her rescue pup, Ripley.

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Karen is a Registered Dietitian, Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and registered in New York as a Certified Dietitian Nutritionist. Fluent in Spanish, Karen joined the Savor Health team to support Spanish speaking cancer patients and to continue to expand the Platform’s nutritional strategies and recommendations in Spanish. Karen received her Bachelor of Science degree from Ithaca College and her Master of Science degree from Hunter College. She works as an outpatient oncology dietitian in New York. Karen often works with local community centers to host nutrition programs for cancer survivors and their families, leading classes on how to live healthier lifestyles throughout their continuum of care. The American Institute of Cancer Research selected to showcase one of her many programs at their conference in 2019. Karen has written for and lent commentary to various publications and truly enjoys teaching people how to eat better. She loves to cook and strongly feels that healthy food doesn’t have to taste bad.

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Allie is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Specialist in Oncology (CSO). She joins Savor in 2023, bringing years of experience from the John Theurer Cancer Center in New Jersey, where she worked with patients with a variety of cancers. Her goal is to help people feel their best, both mentally and physically, when physical health challenges arise. She believes in the power of nutrition ever since the impact it made on her athletic career as a volleyball player during college. Allie graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree from University of Maryland-Baltimore County and has her Master’s degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Wisconsin Stout. She enjoys travelling, enjoying different cuisines, cooking, and hiking and other outdoor activities with her family and dog.

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Julia Penberg is a seasoned healthcare professional with more than 30 years of experience focusing on maximizing operational excellence, leading clinical program development and building strong cross-functional teams. Her previous roles include overseeing the performance of clinical managers and nurse practitioners across multiple markets within United Healthcare-Optum’s Medicare Advantage and dual-eligible special needs populations, payer outreach and program development at Mayo Clinic, ground level specialty hospital development and direct patient care as a family and dermatology nurse practitioner. Julia volunteered as an operating room nurse and nurse practitioner on several mission trips to Romania and was a support group leader for the Kansas City chapter of the International Myeloma Foundation. Her motivation throughout her career has been with wellness promotion, disease risk modification and ensuring the best patient experience across the health continuum. Ms. Penberg received an MBA from the University of Dallas; a MS in Nursing from the University of Kansas and a BS in Nursing from the University of Texas-Austin. She is board certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner.

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Rachel is a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition (“CSO”). She joined NYP-Columbia as the outpatient oncology dietitian in 2020 after working at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center for two years. Rachel completed her dietetic internship through Keene State College in 2017. She is pursuing an MS in Integrative Nutrition at Stony Brook University and has a BS in Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise from Virginia Tech. Rachel provides nutrition counseling to all types of oncology patients and helps them understand the mental and physical benefits of nutrition as an ally in their fight against cancer. In her free time she enjoys slow meals with family and friends, Pilates, and tending to her fire escape garden.

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Allie Werner is a Registered Dietitian at Fresenius Kidney Care where she provides medical nutrition therapy diet counseling to patients on Dialysis. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in nutrition from Indiana University and completed her Master’s Degree and dietetic internship at Loyola University Chicago. In her free time she enjoys spending time with friends and family, checking out the amazing food scene in downtown Chicago, and exercising on her Peloton bike.

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Immersed in the tech world for a decade, I've coded, led teams, and honed my skills in architecture and design. As a tech enthusiast, I've seamlessly woven through full-stack projects, fusing my love for code with the art of leadership.

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Mohit is a full-stack developer with expertise in Python and JavaScript, known for his efficient coding and ability to deliver scalable software solutions. His technical contributions are highlighted on GitHub and Stack Overflow, demonstrating his commitment to the tech community and problem-solving skills. With a solid educational foundation and a diverse project portfolio, Mohit excels at navigating complex challenges and is well-equipped to contribute to dynamic software projects.

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Rayna McCann is a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition. She is a Registered Yoga Teacher and yoga4cancer certified. She received her BS in Nutrition at Penn State University and her MS from Stony Brook University. For work, Rayna wears many hats in the world of nutrition and worked for years in clinical settings focusing on oncology nutrition. She is also an Adjunct Professor and passionate about inspiring the future of dietitians. Throughout her career, she has received awards recognizing her dedication to patient safety and her contributions to improving malnutrition awareness. In 2022, Rayna was proud to accept the ‘Dietitian of the Year’ award through the Long Island Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Rayna has co-authored abstracts for poster presentations within the American Institute for Cancer Research conference, as well as, the Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference Expo and subsequent publication. She has enjoyed authoring articles, including an article for The Cure magazine regarding Multiple Myeloma and nutrition. When Rayna is not participating in nutrition related activities, she is dedicated to dog rescue.

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