New Study Shows Possible Link Between Smoking and Kidney Disease

New York, NY
November 20, 2002

Smoking may lead to kidney damage, even in healthy people, according to a new study reported in the American Journal of Kidney Disease, the official publication of the National Kidney Foundation. Earlier studies showed an association between smoking and development or progression of kidney disease in people who already have health problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes. The new study compared smoking habits and indicators of kidney disease such as reduced kidney function or protein in the urine. The study group of more than 11,000 adults had normal blood pressure and glucose metabolism.

Men who smoked were three times more likely than nonsmokers to have reduced kidney function as indicated by a glomerular filtration rate (a measure of kidney function) below 60 milliliters per minute. People who had high normal blood pressure or blood glucose levels had an increased likelihood of having protein in their urine. There was also a relationship between cumulative amount of smoking and kidney damage. Lifetime smoking, but not current level of smoking, was associated with reduced kidney function and a greater urine protein to creatinine ratio.

"These are important findings," said Brian J.G. Pereira, M.D., president of the National Kidney Foundation. "Smoking has been implicated as a risk factor for development and progression of kidney disease in people with conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure," he stated, "but the effect of smoking on kidney function in the healthy population has been less clear. These results suggest that healthy adults who smoke may be at increased risk for developing chronic kidney disease."

Earlier research has suggested possible ways in which smoking may result in kidney damage. These include promotion of atherosclerosis, or hardening of arteries in the kidneys; changes in blood circulation in the kidneys and effects on the function of the endothelial cells, which line the blood vessels and heart. These changes could lead to less blood reaching important kidney cells, resulting in damage to the functioning of these cells.

For more information about chronic kidney disease, contact the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) at (800) 622-9010. The NKF is a major voluntary health organization seeking to prevent kidney and urologic diseases, improve the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases and increase the availability of all organs for transplantation.