How to prevent kidney disease by losing weight?

Prevent kidney DiseaseEditor’s note: Examining a new study about relationship between excess weight and kidney disease. Please read on to learn 4 useful tips on weight management as a strategy for preventing kidney disease or, if already suffering for it, for improving your condition.

A new study, published in December 2013 issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, involved almost 3,000 people and showed a correlation between obesity and developing kidney disease. The article also noted that loss of kidney function is measurable and detectable long before patients start showing signs and symptoms of other obesity-related diseases, such as high blood pressure and type II diabetes, both primary risk factors for, respectively, hypertensive and diabetic nephropathy. In essence, by losing weight you can prevent kidney disease or, if already suffering from it, improve your condition.

Kidneys are absolutely necessary for proper functioning of the brain and the heart, as well as the immune and skeletal systems. The authors of the above study also called on medical doctors to provide additional attention to and make earlier interventions in the life of obese patients.

Vanessa Grubbs, M.D., UCSF assistant adjunct professor of medicine and first author of the new study, said: “We’re getting larger and larger at younger and younger ages, so the problems we will see that are directly related to obesity are going to become more common, and they’re going to start earlier in life… Even before the level at which we can diagnose illnesses, the decline in kidney function is happening. Preventable? It stands to reason that it would be.”

Vanessa Grubb

Dr. Vanessa Grubbs

Dr. Grubbs is also a scholar in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Harold Amos Faculty Development Program. She and another UCSF professor of medicine, senior author Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, M.D., Ph.D., led a team that analyzed a decade’s worth of health information and data from CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults). This is a national research project that has tracked the health of thousands of white and black young adults since 1985.

kirsten bibbins domingo

Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo

The 2,891 CARDIA participants included in the study were grouped according to four ranges of body mass index (BMI): normal weight, overweight, obese, and extremely obese. The average age of the participants was 35 years old. At the beginning of the study, all had normal kidney function, though higher-BMI patients were at the lower end of the normal range. Kidney function decreased over time in all patients, but the decline was much greater and faster in heavier patients, and appeared to relate exclusively to Body Mass Index (BMI).

Dr. Grubbs said that when the researchers accounted for high blood pressure, diabetes, and inflammatory processes, the body mass index was still a predictor of kidney function decline. There was something unique about just being too large that in and of itself affected kidney function even before the onset of frank kidney disease. “We’re not able to tease out the mechanisms for that just yet, but we’re hoping to look at it in a future study,” concluded Dr. Grubbs.

4 Tips to Prevent Kidney Disease by Losing Weight

  1. How to Prevent Kidney Disease Tip 1: Don’t skip meals; this often leads to overeating later on.  Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with 1 or 2 snacks if needed. This helps avoid overeating and helps keep the blood sugar level steady in diabetes.
  2. How to Prevent Kidney Disease Tip 2:  Try different cooking methods to reduce fat and calories. Instead of using butter or large amounts of oil for cooking, try nonstick cooking spray.
  3. How to Prevent Kidney Disease Tip 3: Substitute fresh fruit and vegetables for high-fat snacks. Be sure to keep them within your potassium allowance. Apples and blueberries are excellent snack foods as they are low in potassium.
  4. How to Prevent Kidney Disease Tip 4: When dining out, share a meal or take half home. If you have no one to share a meal with, ask the establishment to pack up half of your order even before receiving it. This will prevent overeating when dining out.


Vanessa Grubbs, Feng Lin, Eric Vittinghoff, Michael G. Shlipak, Carmen A. Peralta, Nisha Bansal, David R. Jacobs, David S. Siscovick, Cora E. Lewis, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo. Body Mass Index and Early Kidney Function Decline in Young Adults: A Longitudinal Analysis of the CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) Study.American Journal of Kidney Diseases, 2013; DOI: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2013.10.055