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J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 Apr;107(4):644-50.

Are high-protein, vegetable-based diets safe for kidney function? A review of the literature.

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Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


In individuals with chronic kidney disease, high-protein diets have been shown to accelerate renal deterioration, whereas low-protein diets increase the risk of protein malnutrition. Vegetarian diets have been promoted as a way to halt progression of kidney disease while maintaining adequate nutrition. We review the literature to date comparing the effects of animal and vegetable protein on kidney function in health and disease. Diets with conventional amounts of protein, as well as high-protein diets, are reviewed. The literature shows that in short-term clinical trials, animal protein causes dynamic effects on renal function, whereas egg white, dairy, and soy do not. These differences are seen both in diets with conventional amounts of protein and those with high amounts of protein. The long-term effects of animal protein on normal kidney function are not known. Although data on persons with chronic kidney disease are limited, it appears that high intake of animal and vegetable proteins accelerates the underlying disease process not only in physiologic studies but also in short-term interventional trials. The long-term effects of high protein intake on chronic kidney disease are still poorly understood. Several mechanisms have been suggested to explain the different effects of animal and vegetable proteins on normal kidney function, including differences in postprandial circulating hormones, sites of protein metabolism, and interaction with accompanying micronutrients.

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