Celebrate World Kidney Day with Grapefruit
To celebrate World Kidney Day on March 13, you may want to raise a glass of grapefruit juice. The findings of a new study and previous research indicate that this tasty citrus fruit, plus others, can help stop the formation of kidney cysts. Here’s what you should know.
Grapefruit and other citrus, such as oranges, tangerines, lemons, and limes, contain a phytonutrient called naringenin. Research shows that naringenin has an effect on a protein called PKD2, which is responsible for the formation of kidney cysts.
Kidney cysts are sacs of fluid that develop in the kidneys. Simple kidney cysts are noncancerous growths that typically do not cause complications and often do not require treatment.
However, kidney cysts associated with polycystic kidney disease are different. This kidney disease is a genetic disorder in which the cysts can cause the kidneys to enlarge, reduce kidney function, and lead to kidney failure. Once the kidneys fail, patients require dialysis or a transplant.
Kidney disease and naringenin
According to Professor Robin Williams, from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway and one of the authors of a new report, knowledge that naringenin can help stop the formation of kidney cysts “is vital in helping us to understand how polycystic kidney disease may be controlled and ultimately treated.” Since there is no cure for polycystic kidney disease, available treatments (e.g., dialysis, drugs to control hypertension, pain, and infections, or kidney transplantation) are the only therapeutic options at this time.
In a study published in 2013 in the British Journal of Pharmacology, researchers used mammalian kidney cells and triggered the formation of cysts. They then administered naringenin to treat the cells, and the phytonutrient blocked cyst development as levels of PKD2 protein declined.
Dr. Debbie Barnes from St. George’s, University of London, was one of the scientists associated with this study. She noted that the research “provides a good example of how chemicals identified in plants can help us develop new drugs for the treatment of disease.”
How to care for your kidneys
One of the main purposes of World Kidney Day is to increase awareness of kidney health and what individuals can do to protect themselves against development of kidney disease. Given that approximately 90,000 Americans die of kidney disease each year and thus far there is no cure, prevention is critical. Here are some tips:
- Don’t smoke, as smokers are 60 percent more likely to develop kidney disease than nonsmokers
- Eat a healthful diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy
- Limit or eliminate red and processed meats
- Avoid processed foods, such as salty snacks, deli meats, instant dinners, cheese spreads, and crackers as they are high in salt and additives
- Do not drink soft drinks, especially those with sugar
- Limit intake of salt
- Maintain a healthy weight, as obese individuals are twice as likely to develop kidney disease than those of normal weight
- Control blood pressure, as high blood pressure is a significant risk factor for kidney disease
Thus far the research of naringenin has been limited to animal studies, and human trials are necessary to determine its true benefits. For now, grapefruit and other citrus are considered healthy foods and juices (except when taking certain medications) and should be part of a healthful diet.
Medical News Today
University of Royal Holloway London. Could grapefruit be good for your kidneys? ScienceDaily 12 March 2014
Waheed A et al. Naringenin inhibits the growth of Dictyostelium and MDCK-derived cysts in a polycystin-2 (TRPP2)-dependent manner. British Journal of Pharmacology 2013 Oct. 3