One of the chronic diseases that does not get a lot of attention is kidney disease. It affects as much as 14% of the general population. Yet, there are very little or no symptoms early on and the disease often gets diagnosed at a much later stage. In fact, kidney disease kills more people each year than breast or prostate cancer!
Plant-based diets have already shown to help with a number of key diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. It turns out that these diseases are the main risk factors for chronic kidney disease.
High blood pressure is linked to a variety of sources including intake of sodium. Whole-food, plant-based diets are naturally low in sodium. In a study in 2012, Yu and colleagues showed that simply restricting sodium intake to less than 2.3 grams per day could reduce blood pressure by over 10 points and protein in the urine by close to 500mg per day.
Whole-food, plant-based diets also offer another significant advantage. They provide the organic version of phosphate instead of the inorganic type found in processed foods, cheese, and soda. The difference in these types of phosphorous has to do with absorption.
Inorganic phosphorus is absorbed almost 100% into the blood; organic phosphorus is only absorbed less than 60%. In fact, plant-based sources of organic phosphorus are only absorbed 10-30%.
Phosphorous is a key component when discussing kidney disease because studies have shown that each 1mg/dl increase in the blood is linked to an 18% increased risk of death.
Protein source is another important point to consider in kidney disease. Low protein diets (<0.8 gm/kg/day) are linked to 32% lower risk of death than standard protein diets ( ≥ 0.8 gm/kg/d).
The type of protein also matters. Animal protein is linked with an 11% higher protein spillage in urine while plant-based foods are liked to a 20% reduction.
Lastly, plant-based diets provide a terrific source of fiber. Gopinath and colleagues showed that the highest versus lowest intake of fiber was linked to a 50% lower risk of chronic kidney disease incidence.
Overall, plant-based diets are a great way to improve our overall health. As more data emerges around kidney disease, it is becoming even more clear that plant-based diets may play a crucial role in preventing and managing kidney disease.