A diet rich in animal protein can turn kidney disease to failure, study says

plate of prime rib with potatoes and greens

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Diet can play a key role in whether kidney disease leads to kidney failure, according to research conducted by a professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.

Donald Wesson, a medical doctor and a nephrologist, co-authored a study for the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology that suggests a diet high in animal proteins – especially red meat – can worsen the progression of kidney disease.

“Our study found that patients with chronic kidney disease who consumed diets high in animal protein were three times more likely to develop kidney failure than patients who consumed diets high in fruits and vegetables,” Wesson says.

The findings were based on data collected from 1,486 adults with chronic kidney disease who were participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. The study is believed to be the largest one to look at the long-term impact of diet on kidney disease in humans.

Wesson explains that when humans eat animal proteins such as red meat, the body metabolizes these proteins into acids. The kidneys produce substances to help the body rid itself of this acid, but these substances can hurt kidney function if they remain at high levels in the body over long periods of time.

“It’s like a double-edge sword,” Wesson says. “In the short term these substances can help the kidneys get rid of acid, but in the long-term they can reduce kidney function.”

Wesson has spent more than 30 years studying the impact of diet on kidney disease. His studies have shown that when animals or humans switch from a diet high in animal protein to one high in plant proteins such as fruits and vegetables, kidney function is protected. This is because the body metabolizes plant proteins into bases, not acids.

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