Healthy eating tied to lower risk of kidney disease

(Reuters Health) - People with diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy may be less likely to develop chronic kidney disease than those who shun these foods in favor of sweets and meats, a research review suggests.

Compared to people who tended to avoid fruits and veggies and pile their plates with sugar and red meat, those who had healthier diets with lots of foods recommended to reduce the risk of a variety of chronic illnesses were 30% less likely to develop chronic kidney disease and 32% less likely to have protein in their urine caused by kidney damage.

“There is no one-size fits all, ideal diet, and this study supports that the reduced risk of kidney damage may be achieved if people can find a healthy way of eating that is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, low-fat dairy, whole grains and fish - and low in red and processed meat, sugar, and salt,” said study co-author Jaimon Kelly, a lecturer in public health and nutrition at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

“We didn’t investigate whether calorie content of foods consumed overall influenced the results, as targeting calories forces us to be too single-minded around a single nutrient,” Kelly said by email. “A healthy dietary pattern is naturally low in junk food and unhealthy fats, which are the biggest contributors to excessive calorie consumption in the Western diet.”

Kelly and colleagues analyzed data from 18 previously published studies with a total of more than 630,000 adults without kidney disease. Participants were followed for a decade, on average.

For diet evaluations, researchers scored participants’ eating habits based on how much they consumed of the main foods that make up heart-healthy diets like the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet recommended by the American Heart Association. They also examined how closely people followed vegetarian diets or other dietary guidelines for optimal health.

One limitation of the analysis is that the smaller studies used different methods for assessing how closely people adhered to a variety of healthy eating patterns, researchers note in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

“There does not seem to be one single ideal diet for kidney health. Instead, there are several options for healthy dietary patterns from which patients can choose, including the Mediterranean diet and diets reflective of the national dietary guidelines,” said Casey Rebholz, author of an editorial accompanying the study and a researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

“Common features of these healthy dietary patterns are a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and fish, and limited intake of red and processed meat, sodium, and sugary beverages and foods,” Rebholz said by email.

SOURCE:, and Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, online September 24, 2019.