About half of patients in nephrology know a plant-based diet can improve CKD

September 26, 2022

2 min read

Betz reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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A survey of various patients in nephrology revealed that more than half knew a plant-based diet can be beneficial for chronic kidney disease, according to data published in the Journal of Renal Nutrition.

Further, 22% of participants reported following a vegetarian diet of some kind.

Infographic showing vegetarian diet statistics

Also, 58% of participants knew that plant-based diets can improve CKD. Betz MV, et al. J Ren Nutr. 2022;doi:10.1053/j.jrn.2022.09.006.

“Despite growing evidence showing benefit of plant-based eating patterns for kidney disease, no research has investigated if nephrology patients are aware of these benefits, or if they are consuming plant-based eating patterns,” Melanie V. Betz MS, RD, a CKD nutrition and education specialist from the section of nephrology at the University of Chicago Medicine, and colleagues wrote. “The objective of this study was to understand nephrology patient’s familiarity, perception and use of plant-based diets.”

Researchers shared an online survey through the National Kidney Foundation’s social media platforms with the goal of receiving responses from nephrology patients between October and November 2020.

The survey included questions about demographics and plant-based diet knowledge and usage. The design was derived from a tool used to determine patient and professional’s perspectives of plant-based diets for diabetes. For this study, the survey questions focused on kidney disease-specific considerations.

Researchers conducted descriptive statistics on all variables and performed Chi-square and two-sample t tests to compare differences between groups.

A total of 844 responses were included in the final analysis, 34.4% of which had a history of kidney transplant, 34% had a diagnosis of CKD with no dialysis treatment, 22.2% were receiving dialysis treatment and 5.3% had a different nephrology diagnosis without dialysis treatment.

Less than half of participants reported having heard of plant-based diets for kidney disease treatment. However, 58% of participants knew that plant-based diets can improve CKD, and 22% reported following a vegetarian diet. Similarly, 29% reported “eating less meat.”

Rated statements revealed participants were not confident in their ability to plan a plant-based meal, and they were moderately confident that the diet could slow progression of CKD. Additional barriers to the implementation of a plant-based diet included family eating preference, meal planning skills, preference for meat and food cost.

Most respondents reported a sample meal plan, individual counseling sessions with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), handouts and cooking classes would be the most helpful resources to transition to a plant-based diet.

“About half of patients surveyed were aware that a plant based dietary pattern can be beneficial for kidney disease, and many patients were following some version of a plant-based diet,” Betz and colleagues wrote. “RDNs should be utilized to help patients better understand the benefits of a plant-based diet for kidney disease, provide individualized recommendations based on labs and co-morbidities and help address barriers to adhering to dietary changes.”

Julie S. Keenan

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