‘Every single person with cancer has pH that’s too acidic’? Meme gets old science backwards

Does “every single person” suffering from cancer have “a pH that is too acidic”? This startling claim is made on a meme circulating on Facebook in South Africa.

The meme includes a graphic with an arrow pointing to “acidic” labelled “illnesses”, and an arrow pointing to “alkaline” labelled “health”.

It ends with a questionable claim of authority: “Dr Otto Warburg won the Nobel Prize in 1931 for proving that cancer cannot survive in an alkaline, oxygen rich environment but thrives in an acidic, low oxygen environment.”

Understanding acid and alkaline in the body

US fact-checking site Snopes researched a similar meme in 2016 and rated it false.

First, the claim doesn’t even say what “too acidic” means. An article on Health Line explains that pH is measured in a range from 0 to 14. Acidic substances run from 0 to 6.9, neutral is at 7, and alkaline from 7.1 to 14.

The pH in our bodies varies. Our stomachs contain strong acid to digest food. Our  blood is slightly alkaline. Our urine can be acidic or alkaline depending on what we eat.

‘Alkaline diet’ food is simply healthy food

The “alkaline diet” – which Health Line rates as a myth – claims that alkaline foods include fruit, nuts, legumes and vegetables, while acidic foods are meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, grains and alcohol.

The diet is healthy, but not because of the pH of the food. It works simply because fruit, vegetables and nuts are healthy food, and meat, dairy products, eggs and alcohol less healthy.

Cancer produces low oxygen, acidic conditions

And as Snopes points out, the meme gets Nobel laureate Warburg’s finding backwards.

“Warburg’s main contribution to cancer research was the observation that cancer cells actually produce low oxygen and high acid conditions, not that they are caused by such conditions in the first place.”

There is no link between an “acidic” diet and cancer. And cancer cells also grow in alkaline environments. – Africa Check (29/05/19)


Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check has partnered with Facebook to combat fake news and false information on the social platform. This fact-check is part of the initiative.

As part of its third-party fact-checking programme, Facebook allows its partners to see public articles, pictures or videos that have been flagged as potentially inaccurate.

Content rated as “false” by fact-checkers will be downgraded in news feeds. This means fewer people will see it.

You can help us identify fake news and false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

© Copyright Africa Check 2019. Read our republishing guidelines. You may reproduce this piece or content from it for the purpose of reporting and/or discussing news and current events. This is subject to: Crediting Africa Check in the byline, keeping all hyperlinks to the sources used and adding this sentence at the end of your publication: “This report was written by Africa Check, a non-partisan fact-checking organisation. View the original piece on their website", with a link back to this page.