A new study indicates that red meat intake may increase the risk of kidney failure in the general population, and substituting red meat with alternative sources of protein from time to time may significantly reduce this risk. The findings appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN).

To examine the relationship between dietary intake of major sources of protein and kidney function, a team led by Woon-Puay Koh, MBBS (Hons), PhD, from Duke-NUS Medical School and Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health in National University of Singapore, analyzed data from the Singapore Chinese Health Study, a prospective study of 63,257 Chinese adults in Singapore. This is a population where 97% of red meat intake consisted of pork. Other food sources of protein included poultry, fish/shellfish, eggs, dairy products, soy, and legumes.

After an average follow-up of 15.5 years, the researchers found that red meat intake was strongly associated with an increased risk of ESRD in a dose-dependent manner. People consuming the highest amounts (top 25%) of red meat had a 40% increased risk of developing ESRD compared with people consuming the lowest amounts (lowest 25%) No association was found with intakes of poultry, fish, eggs, or dairy products, while soy and legumes appeared to be slightly protective. Substituting one serving of red meat with other sources of protein reduced the risk of ESRD by up to 62%.

“We embarked on our study to see what advice should be given to CKD patients or to the general population worried about their kidney health regarding types or sources of protein intake,” said Dr. Koh. “Our findings suggest that these individuals can still maintain protein intake but consider switching to plant-based sources; however, if they still choose to eat meat, fish/shellfish and poultry are better alternatives to red meat.”

Study co-authors include Jasmine Quan-Lan Lew, MD, Tazeen Hasan Jafar, MD, MPH, Hiromi Wai Ling Koh, MSc, Aizhen Jin, MD, Khuan Yew Chow, MD, and Jian-min Yuan, MD, PhD.

Disclosures: The authors reported no financial disclosures.

The article, entitled “Red Meat Intake and Risk of End-Stage Renal Disease,” appears online at http://jasn.asnjournals.org/, doi: 10.1681/ASN.2016030248.