A diet heavy in meat may help worsen kidney function in women with mild kidney disease, a study released this week suggests.
But researchers found that a relatively high protein intake--an approach many people now use to lose weight--does not appear to promote kidney problems in women with healthy kidneys.
Some experts have worried that high-protein diets, when sustained over time, might run the risk of kidney damage. But the new study failed to find such a connection in most women.
In the majority of women studied, a relatively high protein intake appears to have no significant adverse impact on kidney function. But too much protein, particularly protein from meat, may be harmful to women with mildly reduced kidney function, say the researchers from Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. In this group of women, a high-protein diet was associated with greater long-term decline in kidney function.
The researchers advised women who are at risk of mildly reduced kidney function--including older women and those with diabetes or high blood pressure--to talk to a healthcare professional to see whether the risks of a high-protein diet outweigh any benefits.
High levels of non-dairy animal protein, but not dairy protein or vegetable protein, were associated with reduced kidney function in women with mild dysfunction at the study's start.
Diabetes and high blood pressure are the major causes of kidney disease in North America. People with these conditions should make sure they are screened for kidney disease, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and death.
Although the study included only women and few African Americans, the researchers said the findings are not likely to be limited to white women.
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