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Eating alkaline foods will not kill the coronavirus

April 2, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Eating alkaline foods will stave off the novel coronavirus, which has a pH level of 5.5 to 8.5. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. A virus does not have a pH level. Eating a diet made up of alkaline foods will not prevent someone from being infected with COVID-19 since the body’s pH levels cannot be changed through diet. 

THE FACTS: A false post circulating on social media claims that COVID-19 has a pH level between 5.5 to 8.5, and in order to fend off the virus people must consume alkaline foods. 

“This is to inform us all that the pH for corona virus varies from 5.5 to 8.5. All we need to do, to beat coronavirus, we need to take more of an alkaline foods that are above the pH level of the virus,” the post falsely states, citing the “Journal of Virology & Antiviral Research.” 

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“A virus itself does not have a pH,” said Sarah Stanley, associate professor of infectious diseases and vaccinology at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health.

Stanley explained in an email that “pH is something that applies to a water based solution, which a virus is not.” In addition, she said, it’s not possible for diet to change the pH of blood, cells or tissues. The body regulates pH levels, it’s not something a person would want to change.

“Eating a healthy and balanced diet supports immunity and can be helpful for fighting off infections. However, there is no evidence that consuming alkaline foods specifically is beneficial,” she said. 

The false post lists a number of foods to fight off the novel coronavirus, including lemons, limes and pineapples, but the pH levels provided for them are incorrect. For example, it gives a pH level of 9 for lemons and a level of 9.2 for limes, when both have a pH of about 2, a food science specialist noted. 

“These pH values for these foods are completely wrong,” Donald Schaffner, extension specialist in food science at Rutgers University, told the AP. “The human body is designed to be really good at maintaining its pH.” 

“Eat these foods if you want,” Schaffner said in a phone interview. “The best way to keep from getting a virus is to stay away from people.” 

The Journal of Virology published an article in April 1991 about another type of coronavirus, which is mouse hepatitis type 4 (MHV4). The report analyzed what happens to the pH of cells in rats or mice when they are infected with MHV4. The coronavirus mentioned in the report is entirely different from COVID-19 which is a respiratory illness. 

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536