Obesity Increases Your Risk for Chronic Kidney Disease

Another good reason to fight weight gain

Illustration of overwieght woman with kidneys in background

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.

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Being overweight (having a BMI between 25 and 30) or obese (having a BMI of 30 and above) is a risk factor for kidney disease, says nephrologist Hernan Rincon-Choles, MD, and it’s also associated with the progression of the disease. So trimming down might also slow disease progression in people already diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.

Studies have shown that people with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of factors that increases your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, are also more likely to develop kidney disease than people without it.

Characteristics of metabolic syndrome include:

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  • 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 for kidney disease 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 obstructive sleep apnea, increased urine protein excretion, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, which in turn will lower your risk for developing kidney disease, Dr. Rincon-Choles says.

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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 and low in carbohydrates can be harmful.

A diet too high in protein puts added strain on your kidneys. And, 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 and dietician to develop a weight-loss plan that meets your nutritional needs and protects your health.

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