Diet and Nutrition Can Play a Pivotal Role in Improving Outcomes among Minorities and Reducing Health Disparities

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Improving dietary habits and ensuring access to healthy foods are important to reducing health disparities and improving outcomes among lower-income individuals and minorities, at-risk populations for developing kidney disease in the United States. This was the conclusion of two new studies presented at Kidney Week 2012 that demonstrated 1) increased intake of fruit and vegetables can ameliorate metabolic acidosis, and 2) an unhealthy diet lacking nutrients that indicate adherence to a DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet—which is high in whole grains and fruits and vegetables—among individuals living in poverty can adversely impact their chances for developing CKD, some of whom already have an increased odds for disease progression. Both studies offer evidence that diet and nutrition present targets for reducing health disparities in individuals facing an increased risk for kidney disease.

Previous research into the effects of diet on CKD focused on limiting protein intake, most notably in the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease (MDRD) study, said Frank C. Brosius III, MD, of the University of Michigan Health System, who was not involved in either of the studies. The MDRD study, however, found no significant difference in outcomes based on diet, and despite interest in how nutrients and antioxidants impact kidney disease, “there have been no conclusive studies stating that dietary intervention leads to a statistically significant improvement in outcomes,” he said.

“This is why studies like these are exciting, because improving diet can be a low-cost high-safety intervention,” Brosius said. “The focus of this research is great, because if dietary changes can be shown to have an impact on progression of disease, particularly in those groups who are at highest risk for kidney disease, you can get the biggest bang for your buck.”

December 2012 (Vol. 4, Number 12)