Method, evidence, benefits, and risks

The Dr. Sebi diet is a controversial and strict plant-based diet. Some claim it can reduce the risk of disease when people combine the diet with supplements sold on the diet website.

Dr. Sebi believed that mucus and acidity caused disease. He held that eating certain foods and avoiding others could detoxify the body, achieving an alkaline state that could reduce the risk and effects of disease.

Recent research suggests that plant-based diets can effectively reduce a person’s dietary acid load, which may help to reduce the risk of certain health conditions.

However, further research is necessary and no official sources approve the Dr. Sebi diet. No current research shows that the Dr. Sebi diet specifically can prevent or treat medical conditions.

This article examines the potential benefits and risks of the Dr. Sebi diet.

Alfredo Bowman, better known as Dr. Sebi, was a self-proclaimed healer and herbalist. He was self-educated — he was not a medical doctor and held no Ph.D.

An obituary from 2016 describes his controversial health claims, such as curing AIDS and leukemia.

These and similar assertions resulted in multiple lawsuits. Dr. Sebi reportedly died in 2016 in police custody.

Dr. Sebi believed the Western approach to disease to be ineffective. He held that mucus and acidity — rather than bacteria and viruses, for example — caused disease.

A main theory behind the diet is that disease can only survive in acidic environments. The diet aims to achieve an alkaline state in the body to prevent or eradicate disease.

The diet’s official website sells botanical remedies that it claims will detoxify the body. These remedies — called African Bio-mineral Balance supplements — retail for up to $1,500 per package.

The site links to no research supporting its claims about health benefits. Those behind the site acknowledge that they are not medical doctors and do not intend the site’s content to replace medical advice.

Dr. Sebi’s nutritional guide includes a number of rules, such as:

  • Only eat foods listed in the guide.
  • Drink 1 gallon of natural spring water daily.
  • Avoid animal products, hybrid foods, and alcohol.
  • Avoid using a microwave, which will “kill your food.”
  • Avoid canned and seedless fruits.

The Dr. Sebi diet involves eating:

There is a lack of any scientific evidence to support the Dr. Sebi diet. However, research indicates that a plant-based diet can benefit health. There are also risks to consider, which the next section covers.

A 2022 review of observational and clinical evidence highlights research that associates a high dietary acid load with widespread inflammation and certain health conditions, including:

The review highlights that vegetarian and vegan diets can effectively reduce a person’s dietary acid load. The authors claim that a vegan diet is particularly effective.

However, the authors did not study the Dr. Sebi diet, and they emphasize that further research is necessary to understand the full effect of plant-based diets on a person’s dietary acid load.

Benefits of plant-based diets

Some health benefits of plant-based diets may include:

  • Weight loss: A 2020 systematic review of 19 studies assessing plant-based diets found that all reported weight loss to some extent. A 2021 trial suggested a low fat vegan diet reduced body weight more than the Mediterranean diet.
  • Altering the microbiome: The term “microbiome” collectively refers to the microorganisms in the gut. A 2019 study suggests a plant-based diet could alter the microbiome favorably, reducing the risk of disease. However, more research is necessary.
  • Reduced risk of disease: A 2017 review concluded that a plant-based diet may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 40% and the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes by half.

An older study of young male participants found that they felt more full and satisfied after eating a plant-based meal containing peas and beans than a meal containing meat.

However, more recent research from 2023 compared the satiating capacity of plant-based meals and meals containing meat in 60 adults. Participants displayed no difference in feelings of fullness.

The Dr. Sebi diet encourages people to eat whole foods and avoid processed foods.

A 2020 narrative review associates a high intake of ultra-processed foods with a range of health conditions. Diets with unprocessed or minimally processed foods had more beneficial health outcomes.

Read more about the benefits of a plant-based diet.

The Dr. Sebi diet is restrictive and may not include enough important nutrients, which the diet’s website does not clearly acknowledge.

There is no current research that supports the safety and effectiveness of the Dr. Sebi diet, and Dr. Sebi himself did not have medical qualifications.

Although experts consider it generally safe to follow a plant based diet, the same safety does not necessarily apply to highly restrictive diets, such as the Dr. Sebi diet.

If a person adopts this diet, they may benefit from consulting a healthcare professional, who may recommend additional supplements.

Vitamin B-12

Following the Dr. Sebi diet may result in a vitamin B-12 deficiency. A person may be able to prevent this by consuming supplements and fortified foods.

Vitamin B-12 is an essential nutrient necessary for the health of nerve and blood cells and for making DNA.

In general, people following vegan or vegetarian diets and older adults have a risk of B-12 deficiency. Doctors may recommend that people who do not consume animal products take B-12 supplements or eat foods fortified with B-12.

Symptoms of B-12 deficiency include:

Protein

Dietary protein helps support the health of the brain, muscles, bones, hormones, and DNA.

According to current guidelines, most females ages 14 and above should consume 46 grams (g) of protein daily, while most males of the same age should consume 56 g.

Some foods included in the Dr. Sebi diet contain protein. For example, 100 g of hulled hemp seeds contain 31.6 g of protein, while the same amount of walnuts contains 14.6 g of protein. For comparison, 100 g of oven-roasted chicken breast contains 16.8 g of the nutrient.

However, the Dr. Sebi diet restricts other sources of plant protein, such as lentils, soy, and certain types of beans. A person would need to eat an unusually large amount of the permitted protein sources to meet daily requirements.

Research suggests that it is important to eat a wide variety of plant foods to absorb enough amino acids, which are building blocks of protein. This may be difficult when following the Dr. Sebi diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are important components of cell membranes. They support:

  • brain, heart, and eye health
  • energy
  • the immune system

The Dr. Sebi diet includes plant sources of omega-3s, such as hemp seeds and walnuts.

However, the body more readily absorbs these acids from animal sources. A 2019 study indicates that a vegan diet contains little or none of two omega-3 fatty acids, unless the person takes a supplement.

Anyone following the Dr. Sebi diet may benefit from taking an omega-3 supplement.

Dr. Sebi’s recipes often contain unusual ingredients or his patented botanical supplements. However, a person who is not strictly adhering to the diet could easily adapt some recipes to make healthful, plant-based meals:

No scientific research supports the Dr. Sebi diet. The diet’s proponents also recommend expensive products without scientific evidence to support their use. However, the diet may bring some benefits associated with other plant-based diets.

Eating more whole fruits and vegetables in general could positively affect health. It could also help a person to lose weight if that is a goal.

People can conduct research and speak with a healthcare professional before trying any new diet. A healthcare professional can ensure the person gets all essential nutrients, such as through supplementation if necessary.

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