We all know that carrying around extra body fat isn’t good for us. But you may not realize that losing weight can help prevent kidney disease in otherwise-healthy people. Trimming down might also slow disease progression in people already diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, according to nephrologist Sankar Navaneethan, MD.
“Obesity and being overweight are risk factors for chronic kidney disease and are associated with the progression of the disease,” he says. “Metabolic syndrome is also a risk factor.”
People with metabolic syndrome are 20 to 30 percent more likely to develop kidney disease than people without it, Dr. Navaneethan says. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of factors that also increase your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
- A large waist size, or having a lot of fat around the middle of your body
- A high level of a certain kind of fat – called triglycerides – in your blood
- A low HDL or “good” cholesterol level
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar, even if you haven’t eaten
It’s important to note that even if your medication does a good job controlling your blood sugar, blood pressure or cholesterol levels, you are still at an increased risk if you are obese or overweight. In people who already have chronic kidney disease, having metabolic syndrome increases the chances that their condition will progress to end-stage renal disease. People with end-stage renal disease must be treated with dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Reducing your risk
Start by getting to a healthy body weight. This can reduce your risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure, which in turn, will lower your risk for developing kidney disease.
But if you know you have kidney disease, it’s especially important not to start a weight loss program without talking to your doctor. Some popular diets that are high in protein can be harmful. They can even put your kidneys at risk.
High-protein, low-carb diets can harm the kidneys in two ways.
- First, a diet too high in protein puts added strain on your kidneys.
- Second, when your body is burning fat rather than glucose from carbohydrates, you run the risk of going into ketosis, a metabolic state that can cause kidney damage.
Be sure to talk to your doctor to develop a weight loss plan that meets your nutritional needs and protects your health.