News Release 

These lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of chronic kidney disease

Karolinska Institutet

Research News

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IMAGE: Juan Jesus Carrero, professor of epidemiology in the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Karolinska Institutet. view more 

Credit: Stefan Zimmerman

Active lifestyle choices such as eating vegetables, exercising and quitting smoking can reduce the risk of chronic kidney disease, a new study led by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and Griffith University in Australia, reports. The study is published in The Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

About 10 percent of the world population suffers from some kind of chronic kidney disease. In 2017, more than 1.2 million people were estimated to have died as a direct result of their kidney disease and another 1.4 million of the cardiovascular complications caused by reduced kidney function.

Despite these alarming figures, there is no evidence-based guidance on what lifestyle changes can help to prevent kidney disease from occurring. Current advice to patients is based on how to prevent other diseases, such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease, which are considered important causes of kidney damage.

The researchers have conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of more than 100 published research papers to investigate which lifestyle changes can lower the risk of kidney disease.

The study included more than 2.5 million healthy people from 16 countries. Of particular interest to the researchers were the effects of diet, exercise, tobacco smoking and alcohol on the risk of developing kidney problems.

"We discovered that lifestyle plays a big role and identified a number of recommendations that can be conveyed to healthy people wanting to reduce their risk of developing chronic kidney disease," says Dr Jaimon Kelly, a postdoctoral research fellow at Griffith University.

The advice includes a more vegetable-rich diet, a higher potassium intake, more exercise, less alcohol consumption, less salt consumption and quitting smoking. Adherence to these recommendations could reduce the risk of chronic kidney disease by between 14 and 22 percent.

"In the absence of randomised intervention studies in the field, this study is the best evidence we have to date on what lifestyle choices can help for primary prevention of kidney disease," says Juan Jesus Carrero, professor of epidemiology at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet. "The results can be used in the development of public health recommendations and in discussions with patients on how to lower their risk of kidney disease."

The researchers stress that the advice applies to healthy people at risk of developing kidney problems, and that people who are already suffering from kidney disease are to follow other lifestyle recommendations to avoid unnecessary strain on their kidneys.

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The study was financed by several parties, including the Swedish Research Council and the European Renal Association-European Dialysis and Transplantation Association (ERA-EDTA).

Publication: "Modifiable lifestyle factors for primary prevention of chronic kidney disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis," Jaimon T Kelly, Guobin Su, La Zhang, Xindong Qin, Skye Marshall, Ailema Gonzalez-Ortiz, Catherine M Clase, Katrina L Campbell, Hong Xu, Juan-Jesus Carrero, Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, online September, 2020, doi: 10.1681/ASN.2020030384

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