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High-protein diet increases the risk of kidney disease

8/24 10:15:09

An experiment done in by scientists at the University of Granada in Spain, shows that a high-protein diet increases the chance of developing kidney stones and other renal diseases.

The dangers of high-protein diets

High-protein diets, like the popular Dukan Diet, increase the long-term risk of developing kidney disease and have a negative effect on renal urinary and morphological markers, according to the study.

What's more, they may promote serious pathologies like nephrolithiasis (calcium kidney stones) because they drastically reduce urinary citrate (an inhibitor of calcium salt crystallization) and urinary pH, and increase urinary calcium (to compensate for the metabolic acidity caused by excess protein).

Putting high-protein diets to the test

University of Granada scientists studied 20 Wistar rats, divided into two groups. The first group were fed a high-protein diet of commercial hydrolysed protein supplements with a 45% protein level. The control group were fed a normal protein diet. The experiment lasted 12 weeks, which is the equivalent of 9 years in human terms.

The results showed that the rats on a high-protein diet lost up to 10% of their body weight over the 12 weeks with no improvement in their plasma lipid profile. Moreover, urinary citrate in these rats was 88% lower and urinary pH was 15% more acidic. In the animals fed a high-protein diet, kidney weight increased by 22%, glomerular area (the network of capillaries that filter blood in the kidneys) by 13%, and the mesangium (a collagen structure surrounded by these capillaries) by 32%.

The results of this study lead the principle author, Dr Virginia A. Aparicio, to stress the need to closely monitor anyone on a high-protein diet. The Dukan diet, and others like it, may have serious long-term adverse effects on their health, if the rat study results are applicable to humans.

She warns that the negative effects of high-protein diets on the kidney also depend on the presence of other nutrients in the diet. "Eating large amounts of fruit and vegetables reduces the risk of kidney stones forming - probably due to their high potassium and magnesium content, which compensates for the acidity of the high-protein diet," Dr Aparicio concludes.

Recommended reading: Study debunks a popular diet

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