Red Meat, Bad Kidneys?


Thinking about having a big juicy steak for dinner? Here’s some news that might make you want to reconsider – especially if kidney problems run in your family.

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In a collaborative study between the Duke Medical School and the National University of Singapore, scientists assessed the data from over 63,250 individuals over a 5-year period.


Here’s what they found:


  • Red meat intake is strongly associated with end-stage renal disease (ESRD).


  • The risk for ESRD increased in a dose-dependent manner with red meat consumption. In other words, individuals that ate the most red meat had the greatest risk of developing renal disease.


  • Those in the highest red meat consumption group (top 25%) had a 40% greater risk of developing ESRD than those in the bottom 25% of the study group.


  • Replacing just one serving of red meat with other types of proteins was associated with a relative risk reduction of over 60%. Incidentally, the researchers did not find any association between fish, eggs, poultry, and dairy intake and ESRD. The association was limited to red meat.



It’s important to note that this is an observational study and that even a strong association does not necessarily equate to causation. Put another way, it is possible that something else may be contributing to, or even causing altogether, the increase in chronic kidney disease that the researchers observed over the study period. That being said, the findings of this study are similar to other observations about heavy red meat consumption and reduced kidney health and function so we wouldn’t bet against the possibility of a causal link between the two.


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What makes red meat potentially more damaging than other forms of protein? Researchers aren’t exactly sure, but nitrates, nitrites, glycation and lipoxidation end products, high heme iron content, and the production of acidic compounds during digestion of red meat have been speculated.


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While the science unfolds, it may be wise to eat a mix of diversified protein sources, focusing more heavily on seafood, dairy, egg, chicken, and plant-based proteins and eating red meat in moderation.






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