To examine the relationship between the consumption of major protein sources and kidney function, a team of researchers analysed data from the Singapore Chinese Health Study - a study of more than 60,000 Chinese adults in Singapore. This is a population where 97 per cent of red meat intake consisted of pork. Other sources of protein included poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, soy and legumes. After 15-and-a-half years, the researchers found that red meat was strongly associated with an increased risk of end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
People who consumed the highest amounts of red meat had a 40 per cent increased risk of developing ESRD compared with the people who consumed the lowest amounts, according to the study published in journal American Society of Nephrology. No association was found with intakes of poultry, fish, eggs or dairy, while soy and legumes appeared to have a slight protective effect. Substituting one serving of red meat with other sources or protein reduced the risk of ESRD by up to 62 per cent.
"We embarked on our study to see what advice should be given to chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients or to the general population worried about their kidney health regarding types or sources of protein intake," said lead author Dr Woon-Puay Koh. The research supports previous studies that have found a diet high in animal proteins especially red meat can worsen the progression of kidney disease. When humans eat animal proteins such as red meat, the body metabolises these proteins into acids.
The kidneys produce substances to help the body rid itself of this acid, but these substances have an impact on kidney function if they remain at high levels in the body over long periods. According to Kidney Health Australia, more than 1.7 million Australian adults - 10 per cent - are living with indicators of chronic kidney disease, with 60 Australians dying from a kidney-related disease every day. While the findings of this new study suggest that those with CKD can still maintain protein intake, they should also consider switching to plant-based sources. If you still choose to eat meat, fish/shellfish and poultry are better alternatives to red meat, advises Dr Koh.