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Americas: Heart-healthy diet is good for kidneys, finds study

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Maintaining a heart-healthy diet shows robust benefits to kidney health, according to a study published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases.

While there are established dietary guidelines for hypertension treatment and cardiovascular disease prevention, there are no such dietary guidelines for kidney disease prevention.

“Dietary guidelines exist for people with active kidney disease, but there are no diet recommendations for preventing kidney disease,” says Kevin Longino, CEO of National Kidney Foundation and a kidney patient.

“This new study suggests a novel approach in helping to prevent kidney disease.”

Two of the leading causes of kidney disease are high blood pressure and diabetes, which can often be traced to dietary factors.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is commonly recommended for hypertension treatment and cardiovascular disease prevention.

The DASH diet is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, and low-fat dairy products, and low in red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and sodium.

It is known to have health benefits for hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and overall mortality.

The research team, headed by Casey M. Rebholz, PhD, MS, MPH, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, analyzed findings from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, which was conducted from 1987 to 2013, and supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

The 14,882 study participants were middle-aged (45-64 years) men and women, predominantly African-American and Caucasian, and enrolled from four US communities: Forsyth County, North Carolina; Jackson, Mississippi; suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Washington County, Maryland.

The subjects were not advised to follow a DASH diet, but analyzed how closely their diet matched it during the normal course of their lives.

“The main message is the same for healthcare professionals and the general population: The DASH diet, which is widely recommended for reducing blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular and other chronic conditions, may also protect against kidney disease for generally healthy individuals,” said Dr. Rebholz.

Another significant finding was a relationship between higher intake of heart-healthy proteins, from nuts, legumes, and low-fat dairy products, with a reduced risk for kidney disease.

The investigators also found that higher intake of red and processed meat was associated with a higher risk of kidney disease.

Current guidelines for people with kidney disease recommend reduction of overall dietary protein, but they do not distinguish between types of protein.