Kidney Disease Linked to Low Birth-Weight In Men

New York, NY (March 3, 2008) - Men who were tiny babies are significantly more likely to develop potentially life-threatening kidney disease, according to data collected from thousands of people as part of the National Kidney Foundation’s Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP). TM

In a major surprise, however, the authors found that the link between low birth-weight and kidney disease existed only in men, not women. This result contradicts previous research, conducted among smaller groups of people, which found that both women and men who were tiny babies were more at risk of kidney problems later in life. The findings appear in the March issue of the journal Kidney International.

“By refining our understanding of the relationship between low-birth-weight and kidney disease, these findings will help us reach an important goal: identifying the people most at risk of kidney disease at an early stage, when treatment is most effective,” says Bryan Becker, MD, a member of NKF’s KEEP steering committee and study co-author. “Hopefully this report will bring us one step closer to curbing the worldwide epidemic of chronic kidney disease.”

The rate of chronic kidney disease, or CKD, has reached shocking proportions. According to findings released late last year, 26 million Americans have CKD, which can progress to kidney failure. Once people develop kidney failure, they need either dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.  More than 350,000 Americans are currently receiving dialysis treatment.

The NKF’s KEEP has screened more than 100,000 people with major risk factors for kidney disease, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and a family history of kidney failure.

As part of the current study, the authors reviewed data collected from 12,364 people screened as part of KEEP. Participants reported their birth weights and were tested for CKD.

The authors found that men who weighed less than 2500 grams (5.5 pounds) at birth were 65 percent more likely than men born at normal weights to have CKD.  However, the researchers did not see a similar relationship among women.

It’s unclear why low-birth-weight might be related to CKD,  although the authors note that tiny babies may not grow properly in the womb and develop fewer or smaller tiny clusters of blood vessels inside the kidney that filter blood, known as glomeruli.

The researchers also did not see any racial differences in the relationship between birth weight and CKD risk, which also contradicts previous research.

“These findings demonstrate the value of screening large numbers of people – thousands – for clues about CKD, and reaffirms the importance of the NKF’s KEEP initiative,” says Becker.

The National Kidney Foundation is dedicated to preventing kidney and urinary tract diseases, improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases and increasing the availability of all organs for transplantation.

For more information about chronic kidney disease and KEEP screenings visit