Obesity & Kidney Disease

Being overweight may increase the risk of developing a number of health issues, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, kidney disease, and, many more.

By 2025, obesity will affect 18% of men and 21% of women worldwide. In some nations, obesity is already present in more than one-third of the adult population and contributes significantly to overall poor health and high annual medical costs.

What is Obesity?

World Health Organization (WHO) defines overweight and obesity as “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health”.

Definitions of obesity are most often based on Body Mass Index or BMI (BMI = weight in kg divided by height squared in m2). In adults, BMI between 18.5 and 25 kg/m2 is considered by the WHO to be normal weight, a BMI between 25 and 29.9 kg/m2 as overweight, and a BMI of more than 30 kg/m2 as obese.

It is important to note that in children and adults, different cut-off points may be used.

You can find more detailed information on how obesity is measured on World Obesity Federation website.

What is the link between Kidney Disease and Obesity?

Kidney disease is more likely to develop in obese people including in those with diabetes and hypertension.

Additionally, as an indirect cause, obesity increases the risk of the major CKD risk factors – type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. A direct cause would be when the kidneys have to work harder, filtering above the normal level, called hyperfiltration, to meet the metabolic demands of the increased body mass index (BMI) in individuals affected by obesity. This increase in normal function is also associated with a higher risk of developing CKD in the long-term.

People who are overweight or obese have 2 to 7 more chances of developing End Stage Kidney Disease (ESKD) compared to those of normal weight. Obesity may lead to CKD both indirectly by increasing type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, and also by causing direct kidney damage by increasing the workload of the kidneys and other mechanisms.

People suffering from extra weight are also at a higher risk of Acute Kidney Injury (AKI), a serious condition that develops suddenly, often lasts a short time and may disappear completely once the underlying cause has been treated, but it can also have long-lasting consequences with life-long problems.

Can obesity be prevented and/or treated?

While in many cases, obesity is preventable, it is also treatable. Usually, the problem can be solved with lifestyle changes, however, sometimes, the patient may require medical assistance to lose weight.

If you are overweight, losing as little as 5% of your body weight may lower your risk for several diseases. Slow and steady weight loss of 0,5 to 2 pounds or one kilogram per week, and not more than 3 pounds per week, is the safest way to lose weight.

Here are some examples of ways to lose weight safely and healthily (when possible):

  • At least 300min a week of physical activity
  • Muscle strengthening exercise (like push-ups or sit-ups) at least twice a week
  • Healthy eating and portion control
  • In some cases, bariatric (weight-loss) surgery may be an option

To prevent overweight and obesity you should take three simple steps:

  1. Limit energy intake from total fats and sugars;
  2. Increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables
  3. Engage in regular physical activity (60min a day for children and 150 minutes spread through the week for adults)

In 2017, World Kidney Day’s theme was “Kidney Disease & Obesity”. You can find past campaign materials here. In partnership with the World Obesity Federation, World Kidney Day has produced a joint position ; the document summarizes some key data on kidney disease, obesity and their relation, and includes a few population based policies and strategies that governments and policy makers should implement to increase prevention of obesity and kidney disease.


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