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MSPA Student and Registered Dietitian Jaime Savitz Contributes to Forbes Article on the Alkaline Diet

Jaime Savitz, a registered dietitian and student in Keck Graduate Institute (KGI)’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPA) program, contributed to an article recently published in Forbes Health. The article evaluates the alkaline diet, which claims to reduce risk of chronic disease by prioritizing less acidic foods. 

Savitz, MSPA ’24, had initially published an article on the alkaline diet in Food Technology magazine, where she has been writing the nutrition column since 2020. She was then contacted by an editor from Forbes, who interviewed her for the article. 

The alkaline diet groups foods, drinks, and ingredients into acidic or alkaline categories according to their pH. Supporters of this diet believe that achieving a more alkaline environment in the body by eating foods like fruits and vegetables is better for overall health. 

Additionally, proponents believe that meats, eggs, and dairy contribute to an acidic pH level and could increase the risk of chronic conditions such as cancer. 

Experts contributing to the Forbes article stated that the diet does carry some positive benefits in that it encourages increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. Overall, though, they concluded that the diet lacks sufficient scientific evidence to support its claims and is overly restrictive on many nutrient-dense foods that form the basis of a balanced diet. 

Even within the category of legumes, fruits, and vegetables, the diet is restrictive in terms of what foods are considered alkaline and thus acceptable.  

“Some advocates of the diet state that you can’t have cooked vegetables,” Savitz said. “There’s really no evidence to support this recommendation, as some vegetables make nutrients more available when they’re cooked.” 

Savitz challenges the diet’s overall claim that food choice is tied to pH regulation, as this is something the body already does on its own. 

“Our kidneys do a very good job of regulating our body’s pH,” Savitz said. 

If she would recommend a diet, she would suggest the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet. Both are backed by ample scientific research, are not restrictive, and encourage consumption of lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. 

Savitz has long been fascinated with food—and our relationship with food. She initially wanted to be a chef but shifted her focus to healthcare after volunteering in a hospital, where she delivered food to patients and guests, checking patients’ trays for accuracy. 

“When a patient’s in a hospital, there’s not much they have control over and there’s not much to be excited about,” Savitz said. “The meals might be the highlight of their day. It was neat to be that person who could create a tangible change in these people’s lives.” 

She earned her bachelors in Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition Services from California Polytechnic State University—San Luis Obispo. She continued to work in hospitals in various roles including, most recently, a Clinical Dietitian and Nutrition Manager.  

Her responsibilities included educating patients on nutrition and helping them to make healthy eating choices based on their conditions, medical history, and medications—including food and medication interactions. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, she witnessed the toll it took on patients and her fellow healthcare workers.  

“I love being a dietitian, but when I saw what was happening, I wanted to be able to do more for people.” 

“I feel that nutrition is impactful and definitely very important, but it’s not the whole picture,” Savitz said. When one of her friends suggested that she become a physician assistant (PA), she felt like all the pieces of the puzzle were coming together. This led to her joining KGI’s MSPA program. 

Savitz appreciates how invested KGI professors are in their students’ success. She has also benefited from the immersive nature of the courses. 

“I like how they throw us into situations,” Savitz said. “For instance, we get a script, and one week later, we’re doing a patient assessment.” 

Initially, she would feel nervous about the assignments but would then experience a boost of confidence after tackling these challenges head-on. 

“Learning how to filter through information so quickly creates a fun adrenaline rush,” Savitz said. “Also, it feels good to practice these things before we actually go into clinics.” 

She has enjoyed gaining hands-on experience in Clinical and Diagnostic Skills, learning to master skills such as suturing. Both Pharmacotherapeutics and Clinical Medicine have helped to further clarify concepts she initially encountered in her work as a clinical dietitian. 

“We’re learning about some of these medications that I would see in the hospital, and now I understand on a deeper level how they work,” Savitz said. “Recently we learned about fungal diseases. I remember encountering a patient who I realize now must have had this particular disease, but at the time the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. It’s neat to see all these things come together.” 

When it comes to her long-term goals, Savitz is leaving her options open but is drawn toward neurosurgery as well as cardiovascular surgery. She feels that either would give her an opportunity to incorporate her nutritional knowledge while making a significant impact. 

“There’s always room for patient education, as I talk to patients before and after surgery,” Savitz said. “And nutrition is really important for recovery. But I feel that these fields give you a chance to make a large, very immediate impact for the patient, which is something I was craving as a dietician.” 

In the meantime, Savitz will continue to learn and grow. 

“I love the KGI program, and I’m so ecstatic that I got into PA school,” Savitz said. “I can’t say that enough. I’m very happy to be here.”