Protein is often associated with meat and eggs. But vegetables can contain the nutrient too, and according to a new study, perhaps in a way that is healthier for people with kidney problems.
Researchers behind the study examined the diets of kidney disease patients and estimated how much animal and vegetable protein they consumed.
The researchers found that increasing daily vegetable protein intake was associated with a reduced risk of death in patients with chronic kidney disease.
In chronic kidney disease, the kidneys, which help the body remove wastes, are not able to properly function and dispose of wastes effectively.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, initial symptoms of chronic kidney disease may include problems sleeping, more frequent urination, swollen ankles and fatigue. Over time, the disease can result in complications like high blood pressure, nerve damage and weak bones.
The authors of this new study, led by Xiaorui Chen, Graduate Research Assistant in the Nephrology department at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, explained that vegetable protein (as compared to animal protein) is associated with reduced levels of certain toxins that can build up in the urine.
This is important for patients with chronic kidney disease as they may have trouble removing these toxins from their body. However, according to Chen and colleagues, little is known about how vegetable protein might impact these patients' risk of death.
The researchers utilized data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III from 1988 to 1994. Chen and colleagues identified 1,104 participants over the age of 20 who had chronic kidney disease.
Using dietary recalls provided by the participants for 24-hour periods, intakes of vegetable and animal protein were estimated. Vital statistic records through the end of 2006 were used to determine if a death had occurred.
During this follow-up period, 591 (43 percent of the participants) had died. Chen and colleagues found that a 10-gram increase of daily vegetable protein intake was associated with a 14 percent lower risk of dying by the end of the follow-up in 2006.
More research is needed to confirm these findings and further explore the relationship between vegetable protein intake and risk of death for chronic kidney disease patients, but the researchers noted that their findings suggest a possible connection.
"Interventional trials are needed to establish whether increasing vegetable protein will decrease mortality in chronic kidney disease population," the authors wrote.
This study was presented November 7 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology in Atlanta, Georgia. It is important to note that studies presented at conferences are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Several study authors reported receiving research funding from a number of pharmaceutical companies, including Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Pharmalink and Takeda.