Kidney Disease

Updated April 11, 2013

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The kidneys are vital organs that filter the blood. One of the primary wastes is dietary protein. Excess protein increases the wear and tear on the kidneys’ filtering units. By following the high-protein Western diet over seventy years, people lose on average a third of their kidney function, although this is usually inconsequential due to the organ’s reserve capacity (people can function normally after removal of one entire kidney, after all). The damage from excess protein becomes critical when kidney tissues have been previously lost for other reasons, such as injury, donation, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and nephritis. With reduced kidney function, the amount of protein commonly consumed on the Western diet can result in progressive kidney failure, dialysis, and transplant. A simple, highly effective way to preserve kidney function is to reduce the workload on them by eating a diet with a minimal amount of excess protein, and this is best accomplished with a starch-based diet. Medications commonly recommended to “protect” the kidneys are of limited benefit with serious side effects and costs. They should only be prescribed as a medical treatment of last resort.