Washington, D.C.—A new study appearing in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology suggests that keeping to a Mediterranean-style diet may play a role in lowering risk of kidney disease.

The Mediterranean diet traditionally includes higher consumption of fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes and heart-healthy fats while minimizing red meats, processed foods and sweets, and is no stranger to scientific interest. According to Minesh Khatri, MD, from the Columbia University Medical Center, one of the head researchers involved with the study, studies have found positive associations between the diet and cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and cancer, among others. Khatri also notes that while there has been some association between poor diet and kidney disease, no studies up to this point focused on the Mediterranean diet and kidney disease specifically.

In this study, the researchers examined the associations of varying degrees of the Mediterranean diet on long-term kidney function in an observational, community-based, prospective study. This study involved 900 participants, and took place over the course of nearly seven years, where the dietary patterns of participants were assigned a Mediterranean diet score based on their closeness to the diet, and compared to their overall kidney health, including instances of kidney disease.

The results of the study showed that every one point higher in participants’ Mediterranean diet score was associated with a 17% lower likelihood of developing chronic kidney disease. In addition, participants with dietary patterns that closely resembled the Mediterranean diet (indicated by scores over five) showed a 50% lower risk of developing chronic kidney disease and a 42% lower risk of experiencing rapid kidney function decline. While these results are prominent, an editorial accompanying this study pointed out that the Mediterranean diet was only one part of a healthy lifestyle, and that regular physical activity was necessary to achieve maximum health benefits.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, January 2015(online 11/3/14)