High-Protein Diets and Kidney Disease

In the era of social media, especially of Instagram, people are increasingly exposed to diet and fitness advertisements. Personal trainers and top models provide tips on how to lose weight, sometimes selling magical packages of workout + diets that can – in their opinion – change your body shape within a few weeks.

On the other hand, obesity and its consequent diseases (hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, etc.) are increasing as well. Although these are apparently two contradictory aspects of our era, they both may lead to serious consequences and trigger the risk of developing kidney disease.

Rapid weight-loss diets, which is increasingly popular among the young generations, are usually based on a high-protein intake and a very limited amount of carbohydrates. Although there is some evidence that these diets lead to a rapid weight loss, it is still unclear whether these results are sustainable in the longer-term. In other words: you may gain weight – when you end your diet – as fast as you lost it. Besides, some studies suggest that high-protein intake may lead to long-term side effects, affecting your kidneys. [1]

Although high-protein diets have not been studied extensively, a research on rats has shown that an increased amount of protein in their diets seems to affect the blood flow within their kidneys, leading to renal damage over time. [2] In humans, it is still unclear whether these diets can cause kidney disease in a healthy person. Yet, physicians and researchers seem to confirm that CKD patients should avoid high-protein diets. When you ingest protein, your body produces protein waste. Healthy kidneys have millions of nephrons that can filter this waste and remove it from your body through urine. If your kidneys are not healthy, this ability reduces and protein waste builds up in your blood. The excess of protein waste can cause nausea, weakness, anorexia and taste changes. [3]

Furthermore, it bears reminding that kidney diseases are often silent killers and have no symptoms at early stages. You may be suffering from a form of kidney disease without being aware of it, accelerating the unset of your illness by undertaking an unbalanced diet.[4] Indeed, persons with high risk of kidney disease or those with only one kidney should avoid high protein diet, and patients with more severe kidney disease should maintain a low protein diet.[5]

If you need to lose weight, we advise you to consult a dietitian. Although you might be losing weight slower, the results are likely to be permanent and, in the long run, give you more satisfactions on all levels. However, if you still wish to opt for a high-protein diet, make sure to first check your kidney function. This can be done by measuring your blood creatinine (to estimate how much blood is being filtered by the kidneys) and by a urine sample (to check whether there is protein in the urine).

Always keep in mind that undertaking a balanced diet and practicing regular physical exercise is the key to a healthy, stable and permanent weight-loss. Trends and advertisements may attract you, but we all have different bodies and different needs, therefore a personalized diet planned by a dietitian specifically for you is what we highly recommend if you wish to lose weight.


[1] Can High-protein Diets Damage Your Kidneys?Bruce Lee – https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2017/11/04/can-high-protein-diets-damage-your-kidneys/#4d8ad26c732c

[2] Can High-protein Diets Damage Your Kidneys? Bruce Lee – https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2017/11/04/can-high-protein-diets-damage-your-kidneys/#4d8ad26c732c

[3]Dietary Protein and Chronic Kidney Disease Ckd; https://www.davita.com/diet-nutrition/articles/basics/dietary-protein-and-chronic-kidney-disease

[4] High-protein Diets: Potential Effects on the Kidney in Renal Health and Disease https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272638604012533#!

[5] Kalantar-Zadeh, K., & Fouque, D. (2017). Nutritional Management of Chronic Kidney Disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 377(18), 1765–1776. https://doi.org/10.1056/nejmra1700312