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Why the Creator of the Alkaline Diet Is About to Go to Jail for 3 Years

Unsplash/Hisu Lee

It typically takes a celebrity’s endorsement to raise a diet to mass-popularity levels. Think the 80/20 diet (Gisele), macrobiotic (Gwyneth), and the Atkins (Kim Kardashian). But the eating plan favored by fitness aficionado and actress Kate Hudson and Tom Brady—called the alkaline diet—is now getting even more famous for the legal problems of its creator.

Business Insider reports that Robert O. Young, who preached the healing power of avoiding acidic foods in favor of alkaline foods in The pH Miracle, is currently facing up to three years in prison after he was convicted last year on charges of practicing medicine without a license. According to the BBC, he was found to have bought a doctorate from a “diploma mill.”

Young has also drawn scrutiny (and at least one lawsuit, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports) for his “pH Miracle Ranch” at which he had cancer patients receive his alkaline treatment—which involved mostly intravenously injected baking soda—rather than medical treatments. The Medical Board of California investigated and found that none of the people he treated outlived their original prognosis. Yikes.

Is the alkaline diet as shady as its creator?

Young’s claims were that eating foods that balance your body’s pH is key to your health and common health problems—like bone and muscle loss, back pain, and even cancer—are caused by an acidic diet. Among the foods Young advises to stay away from: meat, sugar, and wheat.

While cutting these food groups certainly can benefit your health (sugar isn’t called “the devil” for no reason), the alkaline diet has been controversial. First of all, as BI reports, foods have a very low effect on the level of acid in your blood—a small study even found that a high-protein, low-carb diet barely changed the blood’s pH levels.

On the other hand, there’s some evidence that the concept may be valid. (It’s backed by health experts like Kris Carr, for example. And Moon Juice’s Amanda Chantal-Bacon and Elle Macpherson are among those who credit alkaline foods with improving their health.) So it seems that the jury’s still out on the alkaline diet—but you can’t say the same for its prison-bound creator.

This article originally appeared on Well + Good.

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