Please have a kidney check-up before starting a high-protein diet

Please have a kidney check-up before starting a high-protein diet
February 15 07:01 2021 by admin Print This Article

Weight-gain and obesity are risk factors for various diseases and ailments including cancer. And for those with diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure), losing weight is an important part of the treatment. Needless to say, people explore every avenue for weight-loss such as regular exercise and – diets. In the last four decades, various diets and diet-plans have emerged, become famous and some have gone into oblivion. While some are beneficial, some cause harm and some offer no significant benefit at all. One such diet that is popular with weight-watchers is the high-protein diet.

What is the High-protein diet?

A balanced diet must have a healthy mix of proteins (for growth and cell-repair), carbohydrates (for energy), healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals for various bodily functions. As long as one is following a healthy and balanced diet, there is no unhealthy weight gain.

However, those with weight issues as well as athletes, sportspersons, and body-builders like to try high-protein diets because of their ability to shed weight without losing out on lean-muscle mass. As the name implies, in a high-protein diet, the quantity of protein is increased while that of carbohydrates is reduced. The percentage of protein may vary from 15 to 35% of your overall calorie consumption. Also, a high-protein diet is not a single diet but has multiple versions such as Atkins, Zone, Sugar Busters, Dukan, Protein Power, Montignac, Stillman, Scarsdale, etc depending on the composition of food in them.

High-protein diets are also called Ketogenic or keto diets as the body is said to go into a state of ketogenesis while on the diet. We have already covered the Keto diet in an earlier article.

What is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?

The kidneys are critical to our overall health. They remove waste, excess fluid, and acids created during the metabolic processes, out of the body, in the form of urine. They also ensure a healthy balance of minerals such as sodium, potassium, and calcium in the blood. This process happens all through the day and is carried out by millions of nephrons present in the kidney. The efficiency of this process is measured by a factor called Glomerular Filtration Rate or GFR.

In some people, this function or ability of the kidneys deteriorate with time due to various reasons. The condition is called Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and is one of the ailments that affect the kidneys. This progresses through 5 different stages, with the last being kidney failure that can sometimes be fatal unless a kidney transplant is done (dialysis helps the person stay alive even after kidney failure and before kidney transplant). If detected in the early stages, the condition can be reversed or its progression halted. But when detected late, the condition cannot be reversed.

 The connection between CKD and a high-protein diet

The breakdown of proteins creates various wastes. These wastes put a strain on the kidneys. However, drinking adequate water can reduce this strain on the kidneys. If a person is following a high-protein diet, the quantity of protein wastes generated is larger than usual. This again is not a problem for healthy people with a healthy kidney. But if a person is suffering from CKD, the kidneys cannot bear the additional burden of a high-protein diet. The condition, combined with the protein waste generated, creates a vicious circle leading to rapid deterioration of the kidneys. The person progresses towards end-stage CKD or kidney failure, which will require a kidney transplant, and dialysis till then.

But if I don’t have CKD, why should I be concerned? A valid question, which brings us to the next section…..

You may have CKD and not be aware

As described above, CKD goes through 5 stages – Stage 1 to 5, where Stage 5 implies kidney failure. In the early stages, there are no prominent symptoms at all. Still worse, some of the symptoms are similar to that of other ailments. So unless you have specifically got a Kidney Function Test done recently, you would not know whether you have CKD or not!

CKD can occur to anybody. There are various risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular ailments, obesity, smoking, being an Asian-American, Native American, or African-American, congenital defects in kidney structure, and a family history of any kidney disease. That is why doctors insist on including Kidney Function Test in the annual health check-up.


All the above imply that if you suffer from early-stage CKD and are not aware of it, starting a high-protein diet can be a recipe for disaster. So what should you do then?

  • First, get a Kidney Function Test (KFT) done at a reputed hospital. The test checks for creatinine and the presence of protein in the urine, both of which are indicators of the health of your kidneys. Some KFTs also record the GFR described above.
  • If the KFT shows negative for any kidney condition, you can proceed on a high-protein diet. Before you do so, consult a dietician or a nutritionist in a reputed hospital, who will guide you better on the diet.
  • If early-stage CKD is suspected, a high-protein diet is not for you. Consult a nephrologist or kidney specialist at the hospital. He/she will conduct more tests to rule out or confirm the condition. If confirmed, the specialist will start a program of treatment for quick recovery and rehabilitation.


Kauvery Hospital is globally known for its multidisciplinary services at all its Centers of Excellence, and for its comprehensive, Avant-Grade technology, especially in diagnostics and remedial care in heart diseases, transplantation, vascular and neurosciences medicine. Located in the heart of Trichy (Tennur, Royal Road and Alexandria Road (Cantonment), Chennai, Hosur, Salem and Bengaluru, the hospital also renders adult and pediatric trauma care.

Chennai – 044 4000 6000 • Trichy – Cantonment – 0431 4077777 • Trichy – Heartcity – 0431 4003500 • Trichy – Tennur – 0431 4022555 • Hosur – 04344 272727 • Salem – 0427 2677777 • Bengaluru – 080 6801 6801

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1 Comment

  1. K Ramanujam
    February 20, 01:06 #1 K Ramanujam

    Such an important article! So many people ignore this!

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