Could anyone explain me please, how exactly (according to research article in Cell journal) adding the baking soda in drinking water can influence the acidity of tumor cells? What about homeostasis and ph buffer systems?

In this article in Cell, discussed in this news source, in addition to a number of experiments with cell lines, a live mouse model with xenograft tumors was used to show the effect of oral bicarbonate on tumor acidification, and support the in vitro results re: the effect of tumor associated acidification on the circadian clock.

How is it possible that oral bicarbonate could make tumors in these mice less acidic? Wouldn't the physiological buffer system prevent any changes to the pH in tissues?

  • $\begingroup$ its Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, they like baking soda stuff) full name of article is "Acid Suspends the Circadian Clock in Hypoxia through Inhibition of mTOR" $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 20:58
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to SE Biology. This is a question and answer site that is self-contained. The questions should be complete and comprehensible without reference to external sourses. Your question refers to an article in a journal, and its title presuposes a knowledge of some previous controversy with which you are engaged. I appreciate your feelings, but this is not the forum on which to express them. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ @David I read the post script as context for why the OP was asking, possibly defending against a potential accusation that this is a personal medical question. The question itself seems to be on topic, since it's about the impact of oral bicarbonate on acid base homeostasis. Maybe it would be helpful to edit out that paragraph...? $\endgroup$
    – De Novo
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ It would really help if you had links to the exact studies you are talking about. Links to articles talking about the studies are not what's needed. The 2018 Cell paper is not about mice getting drinking water, but cell lines. So what paper are you talking about that has mice drinking water? $\endgroup$
    – swbarnes2
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 21:46
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    $\begingroup$ @DeNovo — That's fine. Makes your excellent answer worthwhile. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 21:36

1 Answer 1


What can oral baking soda do?

If your question is (which I don't think it is):

Does baking soda cure cancer?

The answer is that there is no support for that statement.

If your question is:

Can oral bicarbonate alter the pH of tumors in a mouse model?

The answer is yes.

This effect has been observed in this mouse model and replicated many times

This is an effect that has a been used for a while, and was first demonstrated in this 1999 article in the British Journal of Cancer. The addition of bicarbonate increases the buffering capacity in the live animal model, preventing the acidification of the tumor. It does not increase the pH of other tissues.

How does this work?

The idea here is not that adding a base increases blood or tissue pH directly, but it increases the amount of a physiologic buffer in a situation where that buffer has been depleted or is insufficient, allowing a better response to a pathologic excess of acid. Your question suggests you believe that an oral acid or base load will not change the pH of body tissues. This is true in normal physiology because there is a robust system of buffers. The primary extracellular buffer actually is bicarbonate. However, in diseased states, the buffer may become depleted or be insufficient. Oral (as well as intravenous) bicarbonate therapy is used in humans in several disease states, including certain forms of metabolic acidosis (Cecil Medicine, Ch 63, 120) and kidney disease (Ch 124, 128, 132). What is happening in these cases, and in the mouse model, is not a change in pH from the normal set point, but an increase in buffering capacity that allows the pH to return to the normal set point.

I would caution, though, that just because oral treatment is used in certain specific forms of acid base pathology, however, does not mean that there is support for the various forms of quackery that use arguments about flushing acids from your body, or using alkaline water as a general health tonic. It does address the question about whether it is very strange that orally administered buffer would impact a tissue with excess acid. It's not (strange).

The effect of changing the pH in the tumor microenvironment

The effect in the study behind the article you referenced, as well as others, is an increased sensitivity to cancer chemotherapy in otherwise resistant tumors. This is not horribly surprising, and doesn't mean by any stretch that baking soda cures cancer or that, e.g., an acidic diet causes cancer. Other studies, including this one (also in this very particular mouse model), show decreased invasion and metastases, also presumably because of the increased buffering capacity (and decreased acidifcation of the tumor and tumor microenvironments), so there may be other possible effects.

There has been a good deal of interest since 1999 in human studies adding bicarbonate to other treatments, but none have been published that I'm aware of, though I haven't checked the clinical trial registry.

EDIT: On checking the clinical trial registry, on first glance it looks like some safety and tolerability studies have been completed, but it would take a fair amount to do a full analysis of what has been done and what hasn't. Maybe someone else wants to do it and include it in an answer? I'm fairly certain I would have seen and remembered an article showing that bicarbonate cures cancer in humans, though, so I don't think that's on the list :)

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    $\begingroup$ I added some edits here to be clear that baking soda is not a miracle cure. An unsuccessful google news search looking for news reports of the 1999 study reminded me that there is an entire subsection of quackery built around faulty reasoning about acid-base balance. $\endgroup$
    – De Novo
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 22:34
  • $\begingroup$ Although i'm a girl, i'm not so stupid to read tabloids or believe in quasi-science. The problem was i had no answer for people who believe in soda miracle, because they literally put this article to my face, with a spoon of soda. My question was not about "cure cancer by soda", it was about mechanism of influencing of baking soda taking peroral to tumor's acidity, i just couldnt understand how it works on the biochemical level. Thank you for the answer, i will read articles deliberately. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 23:24
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    $\begingroup$ Hi @DariaMorozov. I didn't mean to imply you believed in the quackery. That seemed clear from the way you phrased your question. I just wanted to make sure my answer wouldn't be misinterpreted by others as evidence for a baking soda cure. $\endgroup$
    – De Novo
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 0:03

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