The Right Food Can Help Fight Kidney Disease

August 12, 2014, 10:06am EDT

Skim milk, cantaloupe and brown rice may be the keys to preserving kidney function. According to research, eating poorly, smoking and obesity can cause kidney disease in otherwise healthy people.

Researchers led by Alexander Chang, MD of Loyola University Medical Center found that people with normal kidney function and no hypertension or diabetes whose diet was high in red meat, sugar-sweetened beverages and sodium and low in fruit, whole grains and low-fat dairy were 97% more likely to develop kidney disease. Additionally, obese people or those with BMI over 30 were nearly three times as likely to develop kidney disease. Those who smoked were 53% more likely to develop kidney disease.

In the first study to look at kidney disease risk factors in healthy young people, researchers used data on 3,500 participants from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA), a 25-year study of cardiovascular risk factors in 18-30 year-old black and white adults.

"These findings underscore the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle—eating properly, keeping weight down and stopping smoking. Unlike diabetes, hypertension or family history of the disease, these are all modifiable risk factors that are in our power to control and ultimately, by doing so, we may be able to prevent the onset of kidney disease," said Gail Torres, RN, National Kidney Foundation.

It's not clear exactly how these dietary factors prevent kidney disease, according to Dr. Chang, but "there is mounting evidence that low-fat dairy products lower the risk of diabetes and low salt intake can reduce the risk of hypertension."

Researchers also noted a strong association between sugary sweet beverages and the development of chronic kidney disease. Those who drank in excess of 3.5 sugary sweet beverages each week had a 150% increased chance of developing kidney disease. "Consumption of these beverages has recently been linked to the presence of protein in the urine, one of the earliest signs of kidney disease, " said Dr. Chang. "It's possible that the fructose in these drinks is uniquely metabolized, promoting production of uric acid which has been shown to cause hypertension and reduced blood flow to the kidney in rat models." 

*This article is intended to help prevent kidney disease. If you've been told to limit your potassium or phosphorus or are on dialysis, discuss your personal dietary needs with your dietitian or nephrologist.
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