PhotoThe medical community has been warning the public about the dangers of red meat for some time now. Over the past few years, studies have linked its consumption to higher risk of cancer and diabetes, but now a new study shows that it can negatively impact the kidneys as well.

Specifically, the researchers believe that red meat consumption is leading to chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Both diseases are extremely serious and require either dialysis or kidney transplant in order to be treated.

Increased risk

In their study, researchers analyzed data on over 63,000 Chinese adults living in Singapore to see what impact red meat had on their kidney function. The majority of red meat consumed by participants was pork, but other sources of protein like poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy products, soy, and legumes were included in the analysis.

After an average follow-up time of 15.5 years, the researchers examined health outcomes and found an association between red meat consumption and kidney problems. Those who consumed the highest amount of red meat (top 25%) had a 40% increased risk of developing ESRD compared to those who consumed the lowest amount (bottom 25%).

However, the researchers found that there was no association between kidney disease and other forms of protein like poultry, fish, eggs, or dairy products. In fact, they found that products like soy and legumes were slightly beneficial in terms of kidney health.

Healthy substitutions

In order to combat problems like CKD and ESRD, the researchers suggest substituting one serving of red meat with another form of protein from time to time. Doing so, they say, could reduce the risk of developing ESRD by as much as 62%.

“We embarked on our study to see what advice should be given to CKD patients or to the general population about their kidney health regarding types or sources of protein intake. Our findings suggest that these individuals can maintain protein intake but consider switching to plant-based sources; however, if they still choose to eat meat, fish/shellfish and poultry are better alternatives to red meat,” said lead researcher Dr. Woon-Puay Koh.

The full study has been published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology

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