New findings published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, suggest that long-term red meat consumption could have a detrimental effect on kidney health. As red meat has been associated with an increased risk of other diseases – such as cardiovascular disease and cancer – people are cautioned to limit their consumption of the protein.
An estimated 500 million people have chronic kidney disease, worldwide, and this number is steadily increasing. Chronic kidney disease often leads to end-stage renal disease, which makes it necessary for patients to go on kidney dialysis while they wait for an organ transplant.
Patients with chronic kidney disease are urged to lower their protein intake, in order to slow the disease progression. However, no studies have previously investigated the impact different protein sources have on the development of end-stage renal disease.
The current study – led by Woon-Puay Koh and her colleagues at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, at the National University of Singapore – decided to study the role of protein on kidney health by analyzing data collected from over 63,000 adults between 45 and 74, as part of the Singapore Chinese Health Study. Linking the data to the Singapore Renal Registry, a database containing the health records for all Singaporean end-stage renal disease patients, the researchers found a startling association between red meat consumption and kidney disease.
“We embarked on our study to see what advice should be given to chronic kidney disease patients or to the general population worried about their kidney health regarding types or sources of protein intake,” said Koh. Ninety-seven percent of red meat intake in China comes from pork, while eggs, dairy, shellfish, fish, soy, legumes, and chicken are also popular sources of protein in the country.
The study participants identified from the Singapore Renal Registry were followed, on average, for 15.5 years. During the study, 951 cases of end-stage renal disease were identified, with a clear trend in protein consumption emerging from the data.
Koh and her team identified an increased, dose-dependent risk of end-stage renal disease associated with red meat consumption. Individuals in the top 25 percent who consumed a large amount of red meat faced a 40 percent higher risk of developing end-stage renal disease, compared to those in the bottom 25 percent.
While fish, eggs, dairy and poultry were not linked to kidney disease, soy and legumes were found to have a slightly protective effect on kidney health. “Our findings suggest that these individuals can still maintain protein intake but should consider switching to plant-based sources; however, if they still choose to eat meat, fish/shellfish and poultry are better alternatives to red meat,” said Koh.
So how can kidney disease patients reduce their risk of developing end-stage renal failure? The researchers suggest that consuming another protein source aside from red meat once per week, could reduce the risk by as much as 62 percent.