Hay diet

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The Hay Diet is a nutrition method developed by the New York physician William Howard Hay in the 1920s. It claims to work by separating food into three groups: alkaline, acidic, and neutral. (Hay's use of these terms does not completely conform to the scientific use, i.e., the pH of the foods.) Acid foods are not combined with the alkaline ones. Acidic foods are protein rich, such as meat, fish, dairy, etc. Alkaline foods are carbohydrate rich, such as rice, grains and potatoes. It is also known as the food combining diet.

A similar theory, called nutripathy, was developed by Gary A. Martin in the 1970s.[1] Others who have promulgated alkaline-acid diets include Edgar Cayce, D. C. Jarvis, and Robert O. Young.


Chart from How to Always Be Well, William Howard Hay

William Hay contracted Bright's disease (or what modern medicine refers to as Nephritis). Heart-dilated and told he was near death, Hay started looking for ways to improve his condition. He first turned to a vegetarian diet and restricted his eating to once a day in the evening. Then he gave up coffee and a few month later he quit smoking tobacco. After three months of the new regimen his weight had dropped from 225 lbs. to 175 lbs. and he noticed improvements in his health.[2] Motivated by this experience, Hay spent the following decade studying naturopathy, orthopathy and food combining in efforts to reduce the acid end-product of digestion[clarification needed]. He found that fruits and vegetables produce an alkaline end-product when they are fully metabolized, while processed and refined foods left a highly acidic environment[vague] after digestion. His theories went on to encompass food-combining; stating that incorrect combinations of foods would cause even alkaline foods to leave a less desirable acidic digestion end-product.[3]

"Any carbohydrate foods require alkaline conditions for their complete digestion, so must not be combined with acids of any kind, as sour fruits, because the acid will neutralise. Neither should these be combined with a protein of concentrated sort as these protein foods will excite too much hydrochloric acid during their stomach digestion." - William Hay, How to Always Be Well

The Hay System promoted eating three meals per day with meal one being what the diet considers to be alkaline foods only, meal two composed of what the diet considers to be protein foods with salads, vegetables and fruit, and meal three composed of what the diet considers to be starchy foods with salads, vegetables and sweet fruit; with an interval of 4.0 to 4.5 hours between each meal.

However, in 1935, Stewart Baxter showed that the pancreas secretes digestion enzymes simultaneously regardless of whether the food eaten is carbohydrates or protein, contrary to one of the central suppositions of the diet.[4]

The theory that carbohydrate and protein rich foods should be eaten separately is considered "unfounded" because it ignores the fact that carbohydrate rich foods contain significant amounts of protein. Eating protein separately from carbohydrates also tends to cause the body to burn the protein as an energy source rather than to build muscle.[5]

American artist Man Ray followed the Hay Diet at various times.[6]


The food-combining diet has been the subject of one peer-reviewed randomized clinical trial, which found no benefit from the diet in terms of weight loss.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rasso, Jack, Mystical Medical Alternativism, Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Skeptical Inquirer, September/October 1995. available online
  2. ^ William Howard Hay (1932) [1929]. Health via Food. 
  3. ^ Needes, Robin, Naturopathy for Self-healing: Nutrition, Life-style, Herbs, Homoeopathy, "Acid Alkaline Balance". available online
  4. ^ Cardwell, Glenn, The Skeptic, Nutrition: Food Combining, Vol 16, No 2. available online
  5. ^ Bender, David A. (2009). A dictionary of food and nutrition (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199234875. 
  6. ^ Baldwin, Neil, Man Ray: American Artist, p. 170. available online. "Man Ray now wholehaartedly adopted Dr. Hay's taboos, as he had on earlier occasions..."
  7. ^ Golay A, Allaz A, Ybarra J, Bianchi P, Saraiva S, Mensi N, Gomis R, de Tonnac N (2000). "Similar weight loss with low-energy food combining or balanced diets". Int. J. Obes. Relat. Metab. Disord. 24 (4): 492–6. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0801185. PMID 10805507. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Boyer, Josephine, and Katherine Cowdin (1934). Hay Dieting: Menus and Receipts for All Occasions. With a foreword by William Howard Hay. New York, New York: C. Scribner's sons.
  • Hay, William Howard (1933). Health Via Food. Ed. and rev. by Rasmus Alsaker, with a special introduction by Oliver Cabana, Jr. First printing, June, 1929; Tenth printing, February, 1933. East Aurora, New York, Sun-Diet Health Foundation.
  • Hay, William Howard (1935). Weight Control. New York: Hay System.