Sugary Drinks: Not So Sweet on Kidneys

Kidney stone risk climbs from consuming sugar sweetened drinks

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Sugar-sweetened soft drinks may be hard on the kidneys. They not only seem to contribute to diabetes and obesity, they are also linked to the development of kidney stones.

To prevent kidney stones from forming, healthcare providers typically recommend staying well hydrated. The fluids you drink, however, make a difference.

In a new study, researchers reported that those who drank more sugar-sweetened soda and punch faced a higher risk of stone formation.

"Choose water instead of sugary sodas."

Gary Curhan, MD, ScD, a physician in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and senior author of this investigation, found that some beverages may be more helpful than others when it comes to preventing recurrent kidney stones.

Dr. Curhan and his team analyzed data on 194,095 individuals over a median follow-up time of more than eight years.

Every two years, participants completed questionnaires about their medical history, lifestyle and medication. They answered questions on diet every four years.

The researchers observed that participants who consumed one or more sugar-sweetened soft drink servings per day had a 23 percent higher risk of developing kidney stones compared with those participants consuming less than one serving per week. This was also true for consuming sugar-sweetened non-carbonated beverages, such as punch.

The researchers also found that certain beverages may help fight stones. Coffee, tea and orange juice were associated with a lower risk of stone formation.

In the US, one in five males and one in ten females will experience a kidney stone at some point in their lifetime. Kidney stones can form when substances in the urine – such as calcium, oxalate and phosphorus – become highly concentrated.

Stones may stay in the kidney or travel down the urinary tract. They can cause pain while urinating. Those who have a stone may see blood in their urine or feel a sharp pain in the back or lower abdomen. Individuals may experience nausea and vomiting with the pain.

Healthcare providers recommend that a person drink two to three liters (just over two to three quarts) of fluid a day to help avoid stones, according to the National Kidney and Urologic Disease Clearinghouse.

"Our prospective study confirms that some beverages are associated with a lower risk of kidney stone formation, whereas others are associated with a higher risk," said Pietro Manuel Ferraro, MD, a physician at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Rome and corresponding author of this study. "Although higher total fluid intake reduces the risk of stone formation, this information about individual beverages may be useful for general practitioners seeking to implement strategies to reduce stone formation in their patients."

The study was published online May 15 in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN).

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Review Date: 
May 16, 2013
Last Updated:
August 12, 2013