Red Meat-Eaters: Beware of Kidney Failure Risk

Enjoying a nice steak dinner may actually take a toll on the kidneys, increasing people’s risk for kidney disease, or failure.

Enjoying a nice steak dinner may actually take a toll on the kidneys, increasing people’s risk for kidney disease, or failure.

Replacing some red meat with other forms of protein, like chicken, fish, eggs, or vegetable sources could significantly reduce that risk, scientists reported in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

To understand what advice to give the general public concerned about their kidney health specific to protein intake, Woon-Puay Koh, MD, Duke-NUH Graduate Medical School and colleagues examined data on more than 60,000 adults living in Singapore who were participating in a long-term health study.

Researchers had grouped the participants according to their protein intake, and found that those who consumed the largest amount of red meat had a 40% higher chance of developing kidney failure compared to those who ate the least amount.

Also, after 15 years of follow-up, the authors noted that nearly 1,000 of the participants had developed kidney failure.

However, researchers highlighted the positive relationship between kidney health and consumption of fish, eggs, dairy products, or legumes — substituting another protein source for one daily serving of red meat appeared to lessen the risk of kidney failure by up to 62%.

Based on the results, Koh emphasized that the study did not prove eating red meat specifically caused kidney disease.

However, Koh remarked, “Our findings suggest that individuals can still maintain their protein intake unless their kidney function has been severely compromised. However, to reduce the risk of end-stage renal disease, it is best to eat red meat in moderation.”

While many researchers had long considered the “higher acid-forming effects of meat protein” to have a negative effect on the kidney, Koh encourages further research to understand the underlying mechanisms of how chemicals in red meat could trigger kidney disease.