FROM THE BOOK "WHEAT BELLY"
STRONG BONES - WEAK BONES
Hunter-gatherer diets of meats, vegetables, and fruits, along with relatively neutral nuts and roots, yield a net alkaline effect 4 Of course, the struggle for the hunter-gatherer wasn't pH regulation, but dodging the arrows of an invading conqueror or the ravages of gangrene. So perhaps acid-base regulation did not play a major role in the health and longevity of primitive people who rarely survived beyond their thirty-fifth birthday. Nonetheless, the nutritional habits of our ancestors set the biochemical stage for modern human adaptation to diet.
Around 10,000 years ago, the formerly alkaline human diet pH balance shifted to the acid side with the introduction of grains, especially the most dominant of grains, wheat. The modern human diet of plentiful "healthy whole grains" but lacking in vegetables and fruit is highly acid-charged, inducing a condition called acidosis. Over years, acidosis takes its toll on your bones.
Like the Federal Reserve, bones from skull to coccyx serve as a repository, not of money but of calcium salts. Calcium, identical to that in rocks and mollusk shells, keeps bones rigid and strong. Calcium salts in bone are in dynamic balance with blood and tissues and provide a ready source of alkalinizing material to counter an acid challenge. But, like money, the supply is not infinite.
While we spend our first eighteen or so years growing and building bone, we spend the rest of our lives tearing it back down, a process regulated by body pH. The chronic mild metabolic acidosis engendered by our diet worsens as we age, starting in our teens and continuing through the eighth decade. The acidic pH pulls calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate from bone to maintain the body pH of 7.4. The acidic environment also stimulates bone-resorbing cells within bones, known as osteoclasts, to work harder and faster to dissolve bone tissue to release the precious calcium.
The problem comes when you habitually ingest acids in the diet, then draw on calcium stores over and over and over again to neutralize these acids. Though bones have a lot of stored calcium, the supply is not inexhaustible. Bones will eventually become demineralized-i.e., depleted of calcium. That's when osteopenia (mild demineralization) and osteoporosis (severe demineralization), frailty, and fractures develop (Frailty and osteoporosis usually go hand in hand, since bone density and muscle mass parallel each other) Incidentally, taking calcium supplements is no more effective at reversing bone loss than randomly tossing some bags of cement and bricks into your backyard is at building a new patio.
An excessively acidified diet will eventually show itself as bone fractures. An impressive analysis of the worldwide incidence of hip fracture demonstrated a striking relationship: The higher the ratio of protein intake from vegetables to the protein intake from animal products, the fewer hip fractures occur.' The magnitude of difference was substantial: While a vegetable-to-animal-protein intake ratio of 1:1 or less was associated with as many as 200 hip fractures per 100,000 population, a vegetable-to-animal-protein intake ratio of between 2:1 and 5:1 was associated with less than 10 hip fractures per 100,000 population - a reduction of more than 95 percent. (At the highest intakes of vegetable protein, the incidence of hip fracture practically vanished)
The fractures that result from osteoporosis are not just tumbling down the stairs kinds of fractures. They can also be vertebral fractures from a simple sneeze, a hip fracture from misjudging the sidewalk curb, a forearm fracture from pushing a rolling pin.
Modern eating patterns therefore create a chronic acidosis that in turn leads us to osteoporosis, bone fragility, and fractures. At age fifty, 53.2 percent of women can expect to experience a fracture in their future, as can 20.7 percent of men. Contrast this with a fifty-year-old woman's risk for breast cancer of 10 percent and risk for endometrial cancer of 2.6 percent.
Until recently, osteoporosis was thought to be largely a condition peculiar to postmenopausal females who have lost the bone-preserving effects of estrogen. It is now understood that the decline in bone density begins years before menopause. In the 9,400 - participant Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study, females began to show declining bone density in the hip, vertebra, and femur at age twenty-five, with a precipitous decline resulting in accelerated loss at age forty; men show a less marked decline starting at age forty. Both men and women showed another phase of accelerated bone loss at age seventy and onward. By age eighty, 97 percent of females have osteoporosis.
So even youth does not ensure protection from bone loss. In fact, loss of bone strength is the rule over time, largely due to the chronic low-grade acidosis we create with diet.
WHAT DO ACID RAIN, CAR BATTERIES, AND WHEAT HAVE IN COMMON?
Unlike all other foods derived from plants, grains generate acidic by-products, the only plant products to do so. Because wheat is, by a long stretch, the foremost grain in most Americans' diet, it contributes substantially to the acid burden of a meat-containing diet. Wheat is among the most potent sources of sulfuric acid, yielding more sulfuric acid per gram than any meat. (Wheat is surpassed only by oats in quantity of sulfuric acid produced.) Sulfuric acid is dangerous stuff. Put it on your hand and it will cause a severe burn. Get it in your eyes and you can go blind. (Go take a look at the warnings prominently displayed on your car battery.) The sulfuric acid in acid rain erodes stone monuments, kills trees and plants, and disrupts the reproductive behavior of aquatic animals. The sulfuric acid produced by wheat consumption is undoubtedly dilute. But even in teensy-weensy quantities in dilute form, it is an overwhelmingly potent acid that rapidly overcomes the neutralizing effects of alkaline bases.
Grains such as wheat account for 38 percent of the average American's acid load, more than enough to tip the balance into the acid range. Even in a diet limited to 35 percent of calories from animal products, adding wheat shifts the diet from net alkaline to strongly net acid.
One way to gauge acid-induced extraction of calcium from bone is to measure urinary calcium loss. A University of Toronto study examined the effect of increasing gluten consumption from bread on the level of calcium lost in the urine. Increased gluten intake increased urinary calcium loss by an incredible 63 percent, along with increased markers of bone resorption-i.e., blood markers for bone weakening that lead to bone diseases such as osteoporosis.
So what happens when you consume a substantial quantity of meat products but fail to counterbalance the acid load with plentiful alkaline plant products such as spinach, cabbage, and green peppers? An acid-heavy situation results. What happens if acids from meat consumption are not counterbalanced by alkaline plants and the pH scales are tipped even more to the acidic side by grain products such as wheat? That's when it gets ugly. Diet is then shifted sharply to that of an acid-rich situation. the result: a chronic acid burden that eats away at bone health.
AH THIS IS THE ANSWER TO AN INCIDENT WHEN I WAS 64 YEARS OLD.
I had had my horse Goldie for the second summer. I had bought a Australian saddle that did not fit her (a bad mistake on my part). I was leading a trail ride down the road to a valley. It was the middle of a very hot summer; the ranch road was as hard as paved cement. The saddle slipped and I tried to pull it back straight; I pulled it too much and it slipped sideways to the opposite side (the left) and I came crashing down (from a 15 hh horse = 5 feet high) on to my left hip. Wow, oh wow, did it ever hurt, I mean it was a crash on my left hip. I thought I had SMASHED my hip, it hurt so badly. For a few seconds I thought "I'm in the hospital with a smashed hip." I got up and I was truly amazed I could walk - no smashed hip, but painful like crazy.....BUT NO SMASHED HIP. IT WAS NOT EVEN FRACTURED. Yes I was days with a black and blue hit, putting ice and then hot packs on it, and limping around, BUT NOT EVEN A FRACTURE!
I thought about it and said, "Well I guess the way I've eaten all my life from an young teenager paid off." That way was: little red meat, plenty of nuts, eggs, cheese (at times) and protein from beans, peas, and lots of alkaline plant products, also with fruits, and calcium from various sorts. And not an over-abundance of wheat products like most in the Western world eat. I did not know the details you have just read about from the above book "Wheat Belly" - but obviously had been keeping the acid load at a distance while eating lots of alkaline foods.
THE PROOF IS IN THE EATING AS THEY SAY. AT AGE 64 AND FALLING FROM 5 FEET ONTO MY HIP AND WALKING AWAY WITHOUT EVEN A FRACTURE, TELLS YOU A LOT ... YES INDEED.