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How much protein should I eat?

May 14, 2015

The current recommendation for protein intake in healthy adults is around 0.8-1.0 gm per kg of body weight. That translates to about 55 gm of protein for males and 45 gm for women per day. The typical western diet supplies more than the recommended daily amount of protein.

For persons with chronic kidney disease, restricting protein can delay progression of the kidney disease and the need to start dialysis.

Protein passing through the kidney causes the release of damaging factors and an increase in pressures inside kidney structures that eventually leads to scar formation.

Protein is high in phosphate and as kidneys’ filtering capacity decreases, phosphate is retained. It can precipitate in the tiny structures of the kidney and cause further fibrosis, speeding up the decline in renal function. In addition high phosphorus can worsen bone disease in kidney disorders.

Protein can also make the degree of acidosis commonly found in renal disease worse. Studies of dietary acid load in patients followed for over 10 years have shown the risk of ESRD (need for dialysis) to increase proportionally with the acid load.

Studies suggest that moderately decreasing the intake of protein to 0.6 gm/kg is beneficial. Especially if the cause of kidney failure is diabetes or a nephrotic glomerulonephritis this dietary intervention can delay worsening of the kidneys by up to 75%.

Even a lower level of 0.3 mg/kg protein has been found effective; this more drastic diet I would only recommend if you can have a dietitian help you make sure major nutrient deficiencies do not develop.

In addition to restricting the amount of protein, not all proteins are created equal. As far as the kidney goes, vegetable proteins are far more desirable than animal derived ones. A recent study by Cleveland Clinic found that levels of a by-product of animal protein digestion – TMAO – are higher in patients with kidney disease and signal higher risk of cardiovascular disease and higher mortality rates.




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