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Myth busted: Protein-rich diet does not harm kidneys

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WASHINGTON D.C. [USA]: A recent study has debunked the myth that high-protein diets could cause kidney damage in healthy adults.

The McMaster University meta-analysis has been published in the Journal of Nutrition.

The scientists challenge the perceived dangers of a protein-rich diet, a notion first introduced in the 1980s, which suggested that processing large amounts of protein leads to a progressive decline in kidney function over time.

“It’s a concept that’s been around for at least 50 years and you hear it all the time- higher protein diets cause kidney disease,” said Stuart Phillips.

“The fact is, however, that there’s just no evidence to support this hypothesis in fact, the evidence shows the contrary is true: higher protein increases, not decreases, kidney function,” Stuart added.

Health experts routinely advocate the benefits of protein for many reasons. It boosts metabolism, increases satiety making one feel fuller for longer, promotes fat loss, helps build muscle during weight training and helps to preserves muscle, particularly in the elderly.

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Diet food contains fewer calories, and serves as a healthier alternative to conventional snacks such as potato chips, burgers and other fast food.

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However, the impact of protein on kidney function is much more contentious, particularly its effect on the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which is a test to measure how well the kidneys filter blood and remove waste.

“While there is a breadth of evidence showing the benefits of higher protein consumption, some people are still afraid it could cause kidney damage,” said Michaela Devries-Aboud, lead author of the study.

“With these findings, we have shown that a higher protein diet is safe. In fact, it should be viewed as an important tool for muscle health across an entire lifespan,” the author added.

Researchers analysed data from 28 papers dating from 1975 to 2016, examining the effects of a low or normal protein intake versus higher protein diets on GFR in healthy individuals.

The publications involved more than 13-hundred participants, including those who were healthy, obese, or had type 2 diabetes and/or high blood pressure. None of the participants was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and all consumed either a high, moderate or low-protein diet.

A high-protein diet included either 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, at least 20 percent of total caloric intake coming from protein or at least 100 grams of protein per day.

“There is simply no evidence linking a high-protein diet to kidney disease in healthy individuals or those who are at risk of kidney disease due to conditions such as obesity, hypertension or even type 2 diabetes,” says Devries-Aboud.

According to Phillips, “Protein causing kidney damage just lacks any support. I think we can put this concept to rest.”

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