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Researchers find that ‘quality’ diets high in fruits and vegetables, low in sodium are good for kidneys

(NaturalNews) Many health-minded people often question whether or not a medication prescribed to treat their condition will ultimately be helpful; it’s not uncommon for many to wonder if the drugs will do more harm to their body than good. In many instances, people opt to avoid conventional medications and treatments altogether and, instead, alter aspects of their lifestyle to manage or reverse their disease. However, doing so often results in raised eyebrows from conventional medical professionals whose loyalty typically leans towards prescribing drugs rather than exploring complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which includes diet-based therapies.

That’s why the latest studies, presented in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during the American Society of Nephrology’s (ASN) Kidney Week, is likely to be music to many people’s ears. Quite simply, researchers found that an improved diet may help protect the kidneys, lessening the complications and frustrations that many with chronic kidney disease (CKD) face.

In fact, Andrew Smyth, MD, of the National University of Ireland, Galway, has explained that the entire reason behind the research in the first place was to explore whether or not changes in the diet could offer an affordable, easy intervention that could help those with CKD, demonstrating that interest in exploring the diet, and not just certain medications, may be gaining in popularity.(1)

Nearly 545,000 participants’ responses about diet quality and potassium and sodium intake were reviewed for the research.

A closer look at sodium and high-quality diets to help kidney health

Smyth’s team’s findings were published in an ASN report titled “Diet and Major Renal Outcomes: The NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study.” It states the following as its reason for delving into the role of diet and kidney health:

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects 14% of the US population and >400,000 people require dialysis. These patients are at increased risk of morbidity and mortality. Diet modification may be a low-cost, simple intervention that could reduce the burden of CKD. To evaluate the association between diet quality, sodium and potassium intake and major renal outcomes (death from renal cause or dialysis).(2)

Indeed, “higher-quality diets,” such as ones that included high amounts of vegetables, fruits and unsaturated fats, were linked to a 16 to 23 percent reduced risk of requiring dialysis and, more impressively, dying from kidney problems.(1)

Smyth’s team also found that high sodium intake (average of 4.7 g/day) was linked with an increased risk of needing dialysis or dying from kidney problems, but no significant benefit was seen for low sodium intake (average 2.0 g/day) compared with moderate intake. In contrast, high potassium intake was associated with a reduced future risk.(1)

“Our findings extend the known benefits of healthy eating and show that the consumption of a healthy diet may protect from future major renal endpoints,” said Dr. Smyth. “As dietary modification is a low-cost, simple intervention, it offers the potential to significantly reduce the burden from chronic kidney disease, while also protecting from cardiovascular disease.”(1)

Sodium reduction an important factor in keeping kidney dysfunction at bay

Sodium’s role in helping kidney health was also examined in another study led by Meg Jardine, MBBS, PhD, from the George Institute for International Health, Australia. Like Smyth’s, it too was also presented during Kidney Week 2014. By studying 120 rural villages in China where residents received either no intervention or an 18-month sodium-reduction program, her team determined that those who consumed reduced levels of sodium were 33 percent less likely to have albuminuria, which is protein in the urine that typically indicates kidney dysfunction.(1)

They also learned that high sodium intake was associated with an increased likelihood of a person needing dialysis or dying from kidney problems, while high potassium intake was found to reduce these potential problems.(1)

Her team’s findings, also published in an ASN report, was titled “A Sustained Dietary Sodium Reduction Program Reduces Albuminuria: A Large Cluster Randomised Trial.” It ultimately reinforces the importance that should be placed on reducing sodium in the diets of those with kidney disease, stating:

Albuminuria reduction through a dietary intervention could potentially be achieved population-wide at low cost. Discovering whether clinical benefits will ensue from dietary sodium reduction should therefore be a global research priority.(3)

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