FRIDAY, Feb. 13, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Patients struggling with chronic kidney disease who routinely consume meat-rich, highly acidic diets may boost their risk for kidney failure, a new study suggests.
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, kidney dysfunction can hamper the organ's elimination of acid from the body, causing a high-acid condition known as metabolic acidosis.
Experts have long suspected that a highly acidic diet -- one higher in meat, low in fruits and vegetables -- might aggravate this state.
The theory has been supported by "randomized studies in which alkali supplementation slowed the loss of kidney function in patients with chronic kidney disease," explained Dr. Jaime Uribarri, a professor of nephrology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City.
Uribarri was not involved in the new study, which was led by Tanushree Banerjee of the University of California, San Francisco.
Banerjee's team conducted a nutritional analysis of nearly 1,500 kidney disease patients over a roughly 14-year period. All were participants enrolled in a large U.S. government health study.
The researchers tracked each patient's intake of high-acid foods such as meat, as opposed to their intake of low-acid foods such as fruits and vegetables.
The result: those who consumed high-acid diets appeared to face triple the risk of kidney failure compared with those who consumed low-acid diets.
The finding, reported Feb. 12 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, builds on prior research that has indicated that diet can have a substantial impact on kidney function, the authors said.
"Patients with chronic kidney disease may want to pay more attention to diet consumption of acid-rich foods to reduce progression to kidney failure, in addition to employing recommended guidelines such as taking kidney-sparing medication and avoiding kidney toxins," Banerjee said in an American Society of Nephrology news release.
"The high costs and suboptimal quality of life that dialysis treatments bring may be avoided by adopting a more healthy diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables," she added.
Uribarri agreed. "The results are clear and support previous findings: the higher the dietary acid load, the faster the progression of kidney disease," he said.
He stressed that even though the study wasn't designed to prove cause-and-effect, "the large number of participants adds weight to the conclusions that a diet low in acid load -- rich in fruits and vegetables -- may be of benefit for chronic kidney disease patients."
Another expert seconded that notion.
"Chronic kidney disease represents an underestimated public health hazard, affecting at least 26 million Americans," said Dr. Ernesto Molmenti, surgical director at North Shore University Hospital Transplant Center in Manhasset, N.Y. The new study "provides us with a nutritional intervention that can be instituted in all people at all levels of society," he added.
There's more on chronic kidney disease at the National Kidney Foundation.