Another week, another scientific study highlighting the health benefits of a plant-based diet. This time it’s the turn of chronic kidney disease to be given a herbivorous beat-down it won’t forget.
New research has found that eating more plant-based protein may lower the risk of developing the long-term condition, which affects about 7.2 million people in the UK. It means the kidneys, which remove waste from the body and keep minerals and salts in the blood in balance, stop working over time.
As a result, it can lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, increasing the risk of stroke, heart attacks, and other serious health problems. If these sound familiar, that’s because a wide selection of scientific studies has already linked them to high consumption of – you’ve guessed it – meat.
Since preclinical studies had suggested meat might trigger more inflammation than more environmentally friendly plant-based alternatives, researchers set out to explore the benefits of a source of protein that could improve kidney health, rather than harm it. Meat free eating has already been linked to a decreased risk of getting cancer.
Published in what you’d have to say is the ideal place for scholarly US work about renal ailments, the American Journal of Kidney Disease, the study looked at 117,809 participants in the UK Biobank study over almost a decade, 3,745 of whom went on to develop chronic kidney disease.
But it seems the greener your diet, the less at risk you are. The researchers found that the higher proportion of plant-based proteins were in a person’s diet, the less at risk they were of succumbing to chronic kidney disease – though that might also have something to do with vegetarians and vegans having healthier lives overall, including being more physically active.
According to Seung Hyeok Han, co-author of the study, plant-based proteins have an array of benefits, including, among others, “lower acid load, reduced saturated fat content, rich fibre content and antioxidant properties”. Han added: “This beneficial association [of plant-based protein on kidney health] was also evident in individuals with hypertension, diabetes, higher BMI, and higher inflammation level.”