How Diet Could Affect Dialysis

Vegetarian, very low-protein diet may lower need for dialysis in some patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) Dialysis can be a lifesaver for patients with kidney failure. But what if there was a way to prevent the need for dialysis in the first place?

A new study from Romania found that adhering to a vegetarian, very low-protein diet may slow the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and postpone the need for dialysis. Researchers estimated that for every five patients who adhered to this diet, one less patient would need dialysis.

Dialysis is a treatment that replaces many of the kidney's functions by using a special machine to filter harmful waste, salt and excess fluid from the blood.

Lead study author Liliana Garneata, MD, PhD, said in a press release, "The results draw attention to the role of dietary interventions, particularly of a ketoanalogue-supplemented vegetarian protein-restricted diet, as effective, safe and feasible in selected pre-dialysis patients with CKD. This type of nutritional intervention could be used in compliant patients with advanced disease and with good nutritional status to postpone dialysis initiation."

Diet is crucial in managing CKD, especially restricting protein. Protein restriction can cause other problems such as malnutrition and muscle wasting, however.

Protein is composed of amino acids, eight of which cannot be made naturally by the body. Past research has indicted that the use of ketoanalogues (a supplement that mimics amino acids) could help the body make amino acids and reduce the workload of the kidneys.For this reason, some patients in this study also took ketoanalogues.

Dr. Garneata and team divided 207 CKD patients into two groups. One group ate a vegetarian diet with added ketoanalogues. The other group ate a mixed, low-protein diet. Both groups stayed on their diets for 15 months.

The vegetarian diet seemed to help correct the metabolic problems tied to CKD. Patients on this diet also showed improved lab results, less inflammation and were less likely to need medications to stabilize blood chemistry.

According to the American Society for Nephrology, CKD affects approximately 26 million people in the US.

This study was published Jan. 28 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

No funding sources were disclosed. Several study authors disclosed ties to companies that make products used in the treatment of CKD.

Review Date: 
January 25, 2016
Last Updated:
January 28, 2016