Do weight losing diets harm the functionality of the kidneys?

weight losing diets harm kidneys

High-protein diet with carbohydrate restriction for a longer period is not advised for people with chronic kidney disease because they may cause further kidney damage.  

Losing weight can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be complicated, especially when on a high-protein diet which aids weight loss by making the stomach full. 

A high-protein diet is generally not harmful when followed for a short period. However a high-protein diet with carbohydrate restriction for a longer period is not advised for people with chronic kidney disease because they may cause further kidney damage. 

Chronic kidney disease patients should consume 0.6 to 0.75 gm of protein per kg of body weight per day. Some people follow a high protein weight loss diet requiring up to 1.9 gm of protein per kg of body weight per day which is significantly higher than the amount recommended by the National Kidney Foundation.

Kidney and its Function

Kidneys primarily produce urine and purify the blood  by excreting waste and other chemicals. Kidneys are among the most important organs in the human body which flush out harmful and toxic waste products and maintain the balance of water, fluids, minerals, and chemicals, such as electrolytes like sodium and potassium.  

Apart from excreting the excess water and metabolic waste products, kidneys play a vital role in maintaining bone health and help in the production of hemoglobin. 

Each kidney is a conglomeration of a million nephrons. These nephrons have limited capacity to regenerate. Only the tubular cells of the nephron can regenerate following damage. The rest of the cells comprising the nephron cannot regenerate, hence damage to them can be permanent.

What improper kidney functions lead to?

Each kidney has a unique structure and function. Hence kidney failure can result in serious illness or even death. 

Because of changes in our lifestyles, the incidence and prevalence of kidney diseases are increasing. Metabolic syndrome is caused by a sedentary lifestyle, junk food consumption, and alcoholic beverages that provide empty calories.

This in turn causes diabetes mellitus and hypertension which are the two main causes of kidney disease. Diets similar to the keto and Atkins diets have received a lot of attention recently (high fat with high protein and low carbohydrate diets). 

improper kidney functions

Are high-protein diets for a long period healthy?

A high-protein diet, if followed for an extended period of time may worsen kidney function. Because some high-protein diets restrict carbohydrate intake, which makes it difficult for the body to eliminate all of the waste products of protein metabolism. 

Modern youth who are concerned about their appearance consume high protein, high fat, and low carbohydrate diets which carry an inherent risk of kidney damage. Our bodies are designed to use carbohydrates as an immediate source of fuel, fats as a storage form, and proteins as a last-resort source of fuel. While it is simple for our bodies to generate energy from carbohydrates, it takes many metabolic pathways to be activated in order to generate an equal amount of energy from fats and proteins. To put it another way, fats and proteins are inherently inefficient sources of energy.

high-protein diets

When someone consumes a diet with a disproportionately high content of fats and proteins, they lose weight, making these diets popular among young people who want to lose weight and have a sculpted body. These high proteins, and low carbohydrate diets generate a large amount of nitrogenous waste and acid load, requiring the kidney to work harder to eliminate them. This causes hyperfiltration injury to the kidney, which eventually leads to renal failure.

Take Care of Your Kidneys

It is essential to consume a diet that is naturally balanced. A diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, and nuts are recommended. It should be low in sodium, sugars, fats, and red meats as well.

It is also important to recognize and remember that kidney diseases are extremely asymptomatic; with symptoms appearing only after significant kidney damage has occurred. As a result, we must suspect, evaluate, and treat kidney disease as soon as possible. Individuals who have risk factors for kidney disease should have their kidney function checked on a regular basis, even if there are no symptoms.

About Author –

Dr. Sashi Kiran A, Consultant Nephrologist, Yashoda Hospitals - Hyderabad
MD (Pediatrics), DM (Nephrology)

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Dr. Sashi Kiran A

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