Increasing Protein Intake Won't Weaken Renal Function in Diabetics

Until recently, it was unclear whether high-protein diets accelerate renal disease in susceptible individuals - including the roughly half of all diabetics who experience complete renal failure as a result of elevated glucose levels overworking the kidneys.

While most dietary measures urge patients to reduce their fat intake and consume more fiber, a high-protein, moderate-carbohydrate diet can increase total energy intake from protein by approximately 10%. But until recently, it was unclear whether high-protein diets accelerate renal disease in susceptible individuals — including the roughly half of all diabetics who experience complete renal failure as a result of elevated blood glucose levels overworking the kidneys.

In an attempt to assess the effects of increased protein intake on renal function among type 2 diabetes patients, researchers in New Zealand conducted a literature review.

To date, published research suggests protein restriction may provide a benefit for patients who have existing nephropathy. However, the authors note many patients have difficulty maintaining this diet, as they tend to do well for a matter of months, but then fall off. Based on several studies, the researchers suggest substituting chicken and plant-based proteins for red meat is easier for patients to accomplish, and it is just effective as protein restriction over the long term.

In addition, the authors also could not find proof that increasing protein intake in patients with microalbuminuria accelerates diabetic nephropathy, nor could they find evidence that increased protein causes declining renal function.

While definitively little is known about protein intake in type 2 diabetic patients, there is a short-term benefit to restricting protein in patients who have macroalbuminuria; however, patients find it difficult to sustain protein restrictions for more than 6 months. Therefore, focusing on the general principles of a healthy diet seems to be the wisest approach to preventing the acceleration of diabetic nephropathy.