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Plant-Based Diets for Kidney Health: Lead to 26% Mortality Risk Reduction in CKD

Clinical Trials

15 December 2023

In a landmark study, researchers found that plant-based diets significantly reduce mortality risk in chronic kidney disease patients. Participants adhering to plant-based diets experienced a significant 26% reduction in all-cause mortality risk. Distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy foods, the study suggests a dietary shift from traditional restrictions to a more inclusive approach.

The role of plant-based diets in kidney health has been substantiated by a new study, potentially revolutionizing nutritional guidance for chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients. Researchers uncovered a significant link between plant-based diets and a reduced risk of mortality in individuals with CKD. Led by Dr. Casey M. Rebholz of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and published in the National Kidney Foundation's American Journal of Kidney Diseases (AJKD), this study highlights the impact of diet in managing this critical health condition.

Shifting Paradigms in Nutritional Guidance

Traditionally, dietary advice for CKD patients has revolved around restrictions, particularly limiting protein and controlling phosphorus and potassium levels. However, this study challenges this status quo, proposing a more inclusive dietary approach. 

"It sounds like conventional wisdom, but the results of this study could have far-reaching implications," said Kevin Longino, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation. “These findings challenge some of the status quo in nutritional guidance while offering actionable insights for healthcare professionals and CKD patients, providing a potential avenue for enhancing their well-being—and even their survival.”

The Study's Core Findings: A Closer Look

The research, involving 2,539 participants from the Chronic Renal Insufficiency Cohort (CRIC) study conducted between 2003 and 2008, offers a fresh perspective on dietary influence in CKD management. Key findings are:

  • Participants adhering to overall plant-based diets and healthy plant-based diets witnessed a remarkable 26% and 21% reduction in all-cause mortality risk, respectively.
  • Conversely, each 10-point increase in adherence to unhealthy plant-based diets correlated with a 14% and 11% heightened risk of CKD progression and all-cause mortality.

Plant-Based Diets

This study is pivotal in differentiating between 'healthy' and 'unhealthy' plant-based diets. Healthy options include whole fruits and vegetables, while the unhealthy category encompasses items like sugar-sweetened beverages. This distinction is critical as it moves the conversation from mere plant-based eating to focusing on the quality of plant-derived foods.

Study Implications: Beyond the Numbers

This study is more than mere statistics; it's a beacon of hope, offering actionable dietary guidance for CKD patients. By emphasizing quality plant-based foods over nutrient restriction, it highlights the significant impact of diet on health and life quality, challenging conventional advice and marking a crucial step in enhancing CKD management, despite potential limitations like self-reported dietary data errors.

Abstract of the research

Adherence to Plant-Based Diets and Risk of CKD Progression and All-Cause Mortality: Findings From the Chronic Renal Insufficiency Cohort (CRIC) Study

Abstract / Objective: Studies have shown that generally healthy individuals who consume diets rich in plant foods have a lower risk of incident chronic kidney disease (CKD) and cardiovascular disease. This study investigated the prospective associations of plant-based diets with the risk of CKD progression and all-cause mortality in patients with CKD. Results: There were 977 CKD progression events and 836 deaths during a median follow-up period of 7 and 12 years, respectively. Participants with the highest vs. lowest adherence to overall plant-based diets and healthy plant-based diets had 26% (HR: 0.74, 95% CI: 0.62, 0.88, p-trend<0.001) and 21% (HR: 0.79, 95% CI: 0.66, 0.95, p-trend=0.03) lower risks of all-cause mortality, respectively. Each 10-point higher score of unhealthy plant-based diets was modestly associated with a higher risk of CKD progression (HR: 1.14, 95% CI: 1.03, 1.25) and all-cause mortality (HR: 1.11, 95% CI: 1.00 to 1.23). Conclusions: Adherence to an overall plant-based diet and a healthy plant-based diet is associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality among individuals with CKD. An unhealthy plant-based was associated with an elevated risk of CKD progression and all-cause mortality.


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