A diet that emphasizes healthy foods rather than individual nutrients may help patients with chronic kidney disease live longer, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN).

Patients with chronic kidney disease are advised to follow dietary recommendations that restrict individual nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, protein, and sodium. But empirical evidence suggests that these restrictions—which can be difficult to abide by—have limited effects on reducing patients’ risk of premature death.

Emerging evidence indicates that overall eating patterns may have greater effects on patients’ health and longevity. To investigate, a tem led by Giovanni Strippoli, MD, PhD, from   the University of Bari, in Italy and Diaverum, in Sweden, and Jaimon Kelly, from Bond University, in Australia, analyzed the medical literature, finding seven relevant studies that included a total of 15,285 participants.

Healthy dietary patterns were generally higher in fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, cereals, whole grains, and fiber, and they were lower in red meat, salt, and refined sugars. In six studies, healthy dietary patterns were consistently associated with a 20% to 30% lower rate of mortality, with 46 fewer deaths per 1000 people over five years. There was no significant association between healthy dietary patterns and risk of kidney failure.

“Chronic kidney disease now affects about 10% to 13% of the adult population and substantially increases risks of cardiovascular complications and early death,” said Strippoli. “In the absence of randomized trials and large individual cohort studies, this study is the best available evidence to drive clinical decision-making by patients and doctors on whole dietary approaches in chronic kidney disease.”