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Plant-Based Diets May Help Prevent Kidney Disease

December 10, 2019

A new study recommends plant-based diets for the primary and secondary prevention of chronic kidney disease and calls concerns about hyperkalemia “overstated.” Researchers published the findings of their review in the journal Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension.

“Plant-based diets have been used with growing popularity for the treatment of a wide range of lifestyle-related diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, and obesity,” researchers explained. “With the reinvigoration of the dietary management of chronic kidney disease and the use of low-protein diets for secondary prevention of chronic kidney disease to delay or prevent dialysis therapy, there is an increasing interest in the potential role of plant-based diets for these patients.”

According to the review, several observational studies have shown an association between red and processed meat and the increased risk of chronic kidney disease. In people with preexisting chronic kidney disease, those meats have been linked with faster disease progression.  

However, replacing just a single serving of red and/or processed meat may considerably reduce an individual’s risk for chronic kidney disease, researchers reported. Additionally, plant-based diets may help with hypertension, overweight, hyperphosphatemia, and hyperfiltration. 

As for the reputed risk of potassium overload with plant-based diets, the potential outcome seems to be “overstated, mostly opinion-based, and not supported by the evidence,” researchers wrote. Furthermore, when implemented correctly, plant-based diets provide adequate protein. 

Concerns of hyperkalemia and protein inadequacy related to plant-based diets may be outdated and unsupported by the current body of literature,” they concluded. “Healthcare providers in general medicine and nephrology can consider plant-based diets as an important tool for prevention and management of chronic kidney disease.” 

Jolynn Tumolo


Joshi S, Hashmi S, Shah S, Kalantar-Zadeh K. Plant-based diets for prevention and management of chronic kidney disease. Curr Opin Nephrol Hypertens. 2020;29(1):16-21. doi: 10.1097/MNH.0000000000000574

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