Researchers have confirmed a number of health benefits offered by a traditional Mediterranean diet, from improving heart health to reducing sleep apnea to lowering peripheral arterial disease risk to increasing life expectancy. Now, a new study from Columbia University Medical Center suggests that this style of eating may also help protect kidney health. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, affecting an estimated 180,000 people in the United States.
The Mediterranean diet is an eating style that emphasizes vegetables, whole grains, fish, fruits, low-fat dairy, nuts, and legumes. To evaluate whether adopting this type of diet could positively impact kidney function, researchers looked at data from roughly 900 people — 17% African-American, 15% white, and 65% Hispanic — enrolled in the Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS). The participants completed a food questionnaire and had their kidney function measured at the start of the study and again had their kidney function measured after an average of roughly seven years.
Using the information from the food questionnaire, the researchers developed a 9-point scale indicating how similar each participant’s diet was to a Mediterranean-style eating plan. They found that every one-point increase in the Mediterranean diet score (indicating closer adherence to the Mediterranean diet) was associated with a 17% reduced risk of developing chronic kidney disease and a 14% reduction in the risk of experiencing rapid kidney function decline. Meal plans that most closely resembled the Mediterranean diet (with a score of 5 or higher) were associated with a 50% decreased risk of developing chronic kidney disease and a 42% lower risk of rapid kidney function decline.
“A Mediterranean diet may protect against development of incident CKD (chronic kidney disease) and rapid kidney function decline,” said lead study author Minesh Katri, MD.
The researchers note that their study was observational, and therefore does not show cause and effect, and they call for further research to confirm whether and how the Mediterranean diet might protect kidney health.
For more information, read the article “Mediterranean Diet May Protect Kidneys” or see the study’s abstract in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. For more about adopting a Mediterranean diet, read “Go Mediterranean and Help Your Diabetes,” by certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian Amy Campbell.
And to try some Mediterranean-inspired dishes, see the following recipes: