How Not to Die from Kidney Disease

Kidney failure may be both prevented and treated with a plant-based diet, and it’s no wonder: Kidneys are highly vascular organs. Harvard researchers found three significant dietary risk factors for declining kidney function: “animal protein, animal fat, and cholesterol.” Animal fat can alter the actual structure of our kidneys. In my video below, you can see plugs of fat literally clogging up the works in autopsied human kidneys from a study published in The American Journal of Pathology.

Animal protein can have a “profound effect” on normal kidney function, inducing “hyperfiltration,” increasing the workload of the kidney. Not plant protein, though. After eating a meal of tuna fish, the increased pressure on the kidneys goes up within only a few hours. We aren’t talking about adverse effects decades down the road, but literally within hours of it going into our mouths. What happens if, instead of having a tuna salad sandwich, you had a tofu salad sandwich with the exact same amount of protein? No effect on your kidneys. Dealing with plant protein is no problem.

Why does animal protein cause the overload reaction, but plant protein doesn’t? It appears to be due to the inflammation triggered by the consumption of animal products. Indeed, taking a powerful, anti-inflammatory drug along with that tuna fish sandwich can abolish the hyperfiltration, protein-leakage response to meat ingestion.

There’s also the acid load. Animal foods, such as meat, eggs, and dairy, induce the formation of acid within the kidneys, which may lead to “tubular toxicity,” damage to the tiny, delicate, urine-making tubes in the kidney. Animal foods tend to be acid-forming—especially fish, which is the worst, followed by pork and poultry—whereas plant foods tend to be relatively neutral, or actually alkaline or base-forming to counteract the acid. So, “[t]he key to halting progression of CKD [chronic kidney disease] might be in the produce market, not in the pharmacy.”

It’s no wonder plant-based diets have been used to treat kidney disease for decades. In my video, you can see a fascinating chart that follows the protein leakage of subjects first on a conventional, low-sodium diet, which is what physicians would typically put someone with declining kidney function on, then switched to a supplemented vegan diet, back to the conventional diet, once more on the plant-based diet, and back and forth again. The chart is filled with zig-zags, as if kidney dysfunction was turned on and off like a light switch, based on what was going into their mouths.

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations—2015: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet, and my latest, 2016: How Not to Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers.

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45 comments

Ruth S
Ruth S3 days ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth S3 days ago

Thanks.

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hELEN h
hELEN habout a month ago

tyfs

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Angela K
Angela K3 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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heather g
heather g3 months ago

Apart from my vegetarian diet, I hope my kidneys can cope with cheese and eggs

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Ruth S
Ruth S3 months ago

Thanks.

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Leopold Marek
Leopold Marek3 months ago

Thank you :-)

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Leopold Marek
Leopold Marek3 months ago

:-)

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hELEN h
hELEN h3 months ago

tyfs

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danii p
danii p3 months ago

thank you

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