Chalk up yet another potential health benefit tied to a Mediterranean-style diet. A new study finds that adhering to that regimen – rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, and heart-healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil – may significantly reduce your risk of developing chronic kidney disease.
People who stuck to a dietary pattern resembling the Mediterranean diet had a 50 percent lower risk of developing chronic kidney disease, and a 42 percent lower risk of experiencing rapid kidney function decline, according to the study in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
“Many studies have found a favorable association between the Mediterranean diet and a variety of health outcomes, including those related to cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and cancer, among others,” Dr. Minesh Khatri of the Columbia University Medical Center said in a news release. “There is increasing evidence that poor diet is associated with kidney disease, but it is unknown whether the benefits of a Mediterranean diet could extend to kidney health as well.”
Khatari and his colleagues set out to test whether an improved diet might provide more health benefits. They followed 900 people for nearly seven years. The researchers said that every one-point increase in a Mediterranean diet score was tied to a 17 percent lower likelihood of developing chronic kidney disease.
Chronic kidney disease is a growing epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 20 million people in the United States may have chronic kidney disease. Your chances of having CKD increase with age, according to the CDC. The odds increase after age 50 years and is most common among adults older than 70 years.
And while there has been significant progress in protecting against kidney disease and its progression – through aggressive treatment of “risk factors” like hypertension and diabetes – many people still experience declining kidney function as they age.
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Julie Lin of Brigham and Women’s Hospital noted that a Mediterranean-style diet is only one component of an overall healthy lifestyle, which also needs to incorporate regular physical activity.
“Although a seemingly simple goal, achieving this is challenging. We need to begin by embracing the reality that there is no magic pill or miracle food, only vigilance and discipline with diet and regular exercise, and the rare indulgence in cake for very special occasions,” she wrote.