January 21, 2016 1:30 pm
Updated: January 21, 2016 2:59 pm

Could this baking soda ingredient lower your risk of premature death?

WATCH: A study from the University of Utah found that low levels of bicarbonate increased the risk of premature death in older people by 24 per cent.


It’s a household staple used in cookie and cake recipes but could a key ingredient in baking soda hold the key to staving off death in the elderly?

New U.S. research suggests that low levels of bicarbonate – a main component in baking soda – could be tied to an increased risk of premature death in older people.

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“What we found was that generally healthy older people with low levels of bicarbonate had a higher risk of death,” Dr. Kalani Raphael, a University of Utah researcher, said in a statement.

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He and his team estimate the increased risk at about 24 per cent. They say that a blood marker to test for bicarbonate levels could be an important health indicator.

Our bodies rely on a healthy pH range to keep our cells and organs working properly. It’s our kidneys and lungs that work together to keep our pH range in check by varying levels of bicarbonate (a base) and carbon dioxide (an acid) in our bloodstream.

Raphael and his team say that critically ill patients have levels of acid that throw off the balance – ultimately, these patients have a very low likelihood of surviving their illness. The team wanted to understand what was going on.

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In their work, they looked at the health data for 2,287 healthy adults aged 70 to 79. The information came from a long-term study that followed the trajectory of the group since 1997 until February 2014. By that time, about half of the group died from natural causes.

Normal and high levels of bicarbonate had a similar risk of dying after follow-up. But Raphael found that if study participants had low bicarbonate levels, their risk of death increased by 24 per cent compared to their counterparts.

They still can’t explain why this link exists, but it may be a negative aspect of having slightly more acidic blood. Low levels of bicarbonate could also be a red flag for kidney issues.

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Blood bicarbonate levels are already often measured by doctors. The team says the results could be used to identify who’s most vulnerable of premature death. Interventions, such as eating food that produce bicarbonate in the body, could be implemented, too.

The findings are preliminary, so don’t start figuring out how to add more baking soda into your cooking.

“We don’t know for sure if raising low bicarbonate levels into the normal range with baking soda or taking baking soda if your bicarbonate levels are normal improves health. People with kidney, heart, lung and liver diseases, and women who are pregnant, should never self-medicate with bicarbonate or baking soda,” Raphael told LiveScience.

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Consuming too much baking soda could also trigger stomach issues, kidney stones from excess calcium or high blood pressure caused by too much sodium.

Read the full study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology here.


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