Higher levels of red and processed meat intake are associated with an elevated risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD), whereas higher levels of intake of low-fat dairy products, nuts, and legumes are associated with a lower risk, according to a new study.

The finding is from a study of 11,952 adults who participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. Individuals were aged 44 to 66 years at their baseline examination in 1987–1989. They had filled out a 66-item food frequency questionnaire. The primary outcome was development of CKD stage 3, defined CKD stage 3 as a decrease in estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) of 25% or greater from baseline, resulting in an eGFR of less than 60 mL/min/1.73 m2.

During a median follow-up of 23 years, CKD stage 3 developed in 2632 individuals. Those in the highest quintiles of red meat and processed meat consumption had a significant 23% higher risk of CKD than those in the lowest quintile in adjusted analyses, Bernhard Haring, MD, MPH, of the University of Würzburg in Würzburg, Germany, and colleagues reported in the Journal of Renal Nutrition (2017;27:233-242). Individuals in the highest quintiles of intake of nuts, legumes, and low-fat dairy products had a significant 19%, 17%, and 25% lower risk of CKD, respectively, compared with those in the lowest quintiles.

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In addition, the researchers reported that substituting 1 serving of red and processed meat with 1 serving of nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy, would be associated with a significant 18%, 20%, and 31% decreased risk of CKD, respectively.

“These results emphasize the potential role of dietary protein sources rather than total protein intake for developing kidney disease,” the investigators concluded.

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Haring B, Selvin E, Liang M, et al. Dietary protein sources and risk for incident chronic kidney disease: Results from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) studyJ Ren Nutr (2017;27:233-242).