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UCI study points to long-term negative impact of high protein diets

Research highlights need for better nutritional management in chronic kidney disease

November 02, 2017
UCI Health nephrologist Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh, MD, MPH, PhD
Low-salt and low-protein diets may help slow the progression of chronic kidney disease and even defer the need to begin dialysis, says UCI Health nephrologist Dr. Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh.

High-protein diets may lead to long-term kidney damage among those suffering from chronic kidney disease, according to UCI Health nephrologist Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh, MD, PhD, MPH.

In a review article titled "Nutritional Management of Chronic Kidney Disease” published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, Kalantar-Zadeh and co-author Denis Fouque, MD, PhD, examine the role nutrition plays in managing chronic kidney disease (CKD), which affects about 10% of the world’s adult population. The article's publication coincides with the opening of the annual Kidney Week Congress, the world’s premier nephrology meeting, in New Orleans, La.

“The high protein diet that has been used increasingly in recent years to control weight gain and obesity may have deleterious impacts on kidney health in the long term,” said Kalantar-Zadeh, chief of the UCI School of Medicine's Division of Nephrology and Hypertension as well as director of its Harold Simmons Center of Kidney Disease Research and Epidemiology.

Fouque is a professor of nephrology at the University Claude Bernard in Lyon, France, and chief of nephrology at Lyon-Sud Hospital, also in Lyon.

CKD, defined as structural or functional renal impairment persisting for three or more months, is generally progressive and irreversible. Applying the potential benefits of nutritional management for the condition have remained underused in the United States and many other countries, said Kalantar-Zadeh.

“There is an exceptionally high cost and burden of maintenance dialysis therapy and kidney transplantation,” he said. “Dietary interventions and nutritional therapy may be increasingly chosen as a management strategy for CKD, helping to increase longevity and delaying the need for the onset of dialysis for millions of people worldwide.”

The research survey also indicates that a low-protein, low-salt diet may be an effective adjunct therapy to slow the progression of CKD and help defer the need for dialysis by managing uremia, or high levels of urea and other uremic toxins in the blood that can arise in patients with advanced or late-stage, kidney disease.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UC Irvine is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, the university has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UC Irvine, visit www.uci.edu.