Features May 2012 Issue

Research Shows Risky Weight Loss Efforts May Hurt Kidneys

Cleveland Clinic study shows that certain diets and diet pills may put overweight individuals at risk.

With one in five overweight Americans suffering from kidney disease, the role of weight loss in managing the condition is crucial. But certain lifestyle choices can further damage kidney function, according to a Cleveland Clinic study published online in the February issue of the International Journal of Obesity.

Led by Cleveland Clinic nephrologist Sankar Navaneethan, MD, researchers examined the food choices and lifestyle habits of nearly 11,000 overweight Americans. They found that the typical American diet includes 1.2g of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. However, patients with chronic kidney disease are advised to consume about 0.6g to 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight daily.

Despite their popularity, high-protein diets are not recommended for kidney patients.

Researchers also found that eight percent of the subjects trying to lose weight used medications as part of their weight-loss regimen.

“Rather than using fad diets or diet pills, overweight and obese people with kidney disease may adopt a weight-loss plan that incorporates a low-protein, low-calorie diet, regular physical activity and close follow-up by their physicians,” Dr. Navaneethan says. “People who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for chronic kidney disease, and there is a great need to define what he appropriate lifestyle changes and weight-loss modalities are for protecting kidney function.”

Researchers suggested that the next phase of this research should focus on safe weight-loss strategies that help protect kidney function.

Kidney health and heart health are vitally linked because the kidneys’ job is to filter out waste products from blood. If the kidneys can’t do that effectively, the cardiovascular system can suffer.