Staving Off Kidney Stones

A healthful diet may help prevent the formation of kidney stones, according to research recently published online in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. A variety of health conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and overweight, put a person at increased risk of developing kidney stones.

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Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital used data from nearly 242,000 health-care workers who had completed surveys about their diets every four years for up to 18 years to determine the effect of healthful eating habits on the development of kidney stones. The scientists assigned a score to each participant based on his or her adherence to eight principles of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, an eating plan that encourages a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and heart-healthy fats, and a low intake of sodium, sugar-sweetened drinks, red meat, and processed meat. A higher score indicated closer adherence to the diet.

Over a combined 50-year follow-up period, there were 5,645 cases of kidney stones in the participants. Those with the highest DASH scores were found to be between 40% and 45% less likely to develop kidney stones than those with the lowest DASH scores. This decrease in risk was seen regardless of factors such as age, body size, and fluid intake.

According to the study’s authors, “Consumption of a DASH-style diet is associated with a marked decrease in kidney stone risk… The impact was similar in men and women, in older and younger individuals, and in participants with both low and high body-mass index.”

The researchers suspect that the decrease in kidney stone risk is due to the high fruit and vegetable intake of the DASH diet, which increases urinary citrate, inhibiting the formation of calcium-based kidney stones. Additionally, normal or high calcium intake and low animal protein and sodium intake, all features of the DASH diet, are known factors for lowering the risk of kidney stones.

For more information about the DASH diet, visit the Web site of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. To learn more about the study, see the article “An Apple A Day Keeps Kidney Stones Away: More Fruits and Veggies, Less Salt Prevents Stones From Forming,” or read the study’s abstract on the Web site of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

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