Plant-based protein may preserve kidney function, but more research needed


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Key takeaways:

  • Researchers found limited available study data and inconsistent results.
  • Researchers cite ongoing need to research effects of plant-based protein on kidney function.

Plant-based protein may preserve kidney function and help manage chronic kidney disease in certain patients, but current research remains limited to inform clinical direction, according to published data.

 

a bowl with salad and chickpeas
Researchers found limited available study data and inconsistent results. Image: Adobe Stock.

“Plant-based diets are usually lower in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, higher in mono- and poly-unsaturated fat and dietary fiber, have anti-inflammatory properties and have the potential to reduce metabolic acidosis in individuals with CKD,” Kendal M. Burstad, PhD, RD, from the department of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota and colleagues, wrote. “Enthusiasm for these diets [is] growing among kidney professionals based on the potential health benefits in people with CKD.”

 

Researchers conducted a systematic review to summarize available clinical trial evidence for the effect of plant-based protein on kidney function and CKD-mineral bone disorder outcomes in adult patients with stages 3 to 5 CKD who are not on dialysis.

 

Clinical trials with at least eight participants, with an eGFR of less than 60 mL/min/1.73 m2, were included. Additionally, only trials with more than a week of interventions with 50% dietary protein from plant-based sources and at least one outcome for kidney function and CKD-mineral bone disorder outcomes were reviewed, according to the study.

 

Of the 10,962 identified abstracts, 32 studies met inclusion criteria. In 27 studies, protein source was altered secondarily to low-protein diet interventions, so researchers focused on a subset of five that investigated a change in protein source only. Among those selections, four studies showed no change in kidney function and one study had a decrease. Three studies had no change in serum phosphorus, and another reported lower serum phosphorus in patients following a vegetarian diet.

 

Researchers observed limited data and inconclusive results for phosphaturic hormones, parathyroid hormone and fibroblast growth factor-23. Overall, the evidence was “of suboptimal methodological quality and yields inconsistent results to provide firm conclusions on the effects of plant-based protein consumption,” the researchers wrote.

 

The authors emphasized the importance of considering patient preferences and risk factors for better outcomes when recommending a plant-based protein-infused diet.

 

“Nutrition therapy is a cornerstone of disease management in CKD and in the prevention of CKD-mineral bone disorder progression,” Burstad and colleagues wrote. “This systematic review emphasizes the ongoing need to research the effects of plant-based protein on kidney function.”

 

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