An Apple a Day Keeps the Nephrologist Away.

Food is medicine. Genius, right? Well, in line with this old adage, a new study has some news for us: three or four servings of vegetables daily can have an incredible effect on kidney health. In fact, “Kidney disease patients who eat three to four more servings of fruits and vegetables every day could lower their blood pressure and their medication costs,” the research suggests [1].

The study, presented at the American Society of Nephrology’s Annual Kidney Week [2], looked at 108 patients with high blood pressure. All participants in the study were taking similar doses of blood pressure drugs, and were divided into three groups. The first group was treated with sodium bicarbonate (designed to neutralise abnormally high acid levels common in kidney patients). The second group was given three to four servings of fruit and vegetables every day and instructed not to alter their usual diet beyond these inclusions [1].

The third group was the control group.

The study spanned five years but researchers remarked that the results were obvious from the very first year: ‘Study author Dr. Nimrit Goraya described the links seen between increased fruit and vegetable intake, kidney disease control and lower medication expenses as “huge.” And “the impact was visible from the very first year,” she said. “This study has been done over five years, but every year since the therapy with fruits and vegetables began, we were able to lower medications,” she noted [1].’

“Our findings suggest that an apple a day keeps the nephrologist away,” said Dr. Goraya, (as quoted in Science Daily) [2].

After five years, the systolic blood pressure reading in the ‘fruit and vegetable group’ was 125mm Hg compared with 135mm Hg and 134 mm Hg in the bicarbonate and control groups respectively [1]. Goraya went on to suggest that “kidney disease control is likely triggered not only by the protective benefits of healthier foods but also by a corresponding reduction in fast-food consumption, a lowering of salt intake and perhaps even weight loss. [1]”

According to Mercola [3], high blood pressure is the second highest cause of kidney failure, “But clean foods combined with regular aerobic and resistance (strength) training exercises can lower high blood pressure readings dramatically.”

The exercise component has been shown recently by a 28-study review involving more than 1,000 dialysis patients undertaken at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil [4]. The authors of that study arrived at the conclusion that “aerobic exercise should be recommended for ambulatory blood pressure reduction in hypertensive subjects, while resistance training is an important complement to aerobic training because of its osteomuscular benefits [4]. The benefits of acute aerobic exercise on hypertension, they said, were clear.

Other studies have touted the risks of blood pressure lowering medications, with one study showing a slightly elevated all-cause mortality rate in the tight-control group for hypertension [5]. While this certainly shouldn’t be cause for alarm, the addition of this new study illustrating the impact of fruit and vegetables on hypertension gives us something to think about.

With issues as potentially serious as kidney or cardiovascular disease, it can be tempting to head straight for the quick fix. With this new evidence at our fingertips, perhaps its time we start taking the food and exercise angle a lot more seriously in addition with traditional medical thought.

References

[1] http://health.usnews.com/health-care/articles/2016-09-14/fruits-veggies-powerful-rx-for-kidney-disease-study

[2] American Society of Nephrology (ASN). (2012, November 1). Health of kidney disease patients: Diet and blood pressure. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 21, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121101153424.htm

[3]Staff Writer, 2017. “Veggies work better than drugs for kidneys,” Mercola, http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/02/20/foods-good-for-kidneys.aspx

[4] Cardoso, C. G., Gomides, R. S., Queiroz, A. C. C., Pinto, L. G., da Silveira Lobo, F., Tinucci, T., … de Moraes Forjaz, C. L. (2010). Acute and Chronic Effects of Aerobic and Resistance Exercise on Ambulatory Blood Pressure. Clinics, 65(3), 317–325. http://doi.org/10.1590/S1807-59322010000300013

[5] Cooper-DeHoff RM, Gong Y, Handberg EM, Bavry AA, Denardo SJ, Bakris GL, Pepine CJ. Tight Blood Pressure Control and Cardiovascular Outcomes Among Hypertensive Patients With Diabetes and Coronary Artery Disease. JAMA. 2010;304(1):61-68. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.884. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/186169#Abstract

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