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Sugary Drinks Raise Kidney Stone Risk, What Else Does?

Kidney stones and sugary drinks

Drinking fluids is encouraged to help prevent the recurrence of kidney stones, but sugary drinks should not be on that list, according to new research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital. What other things should you do to help prevent kidney stone risk?

What you eat and drink matters

Before explaining the different ways you can reduce your risk of developing kidney stones, let’s look at the latest study first. The goal of the study was to identify which fluids are helpful or harmful when it comes to preventing kidney stones, a condition that affects 20 percent of men and 10 percent of women in the United States.

After analyzing data from 194,095 people who were followed for more than 8 years, the investigators concluded that sugary drinks such as regular soda and punch were associated with a greater risk of kidney stone formation while coffee, wine, orange juice, and tea were associated with a lower risk.

Specifically, individuals who consumed just one sugary cola daily had a 23 percent increased risk of developing kidney stones than did people who had no more than one such beverage per week, a 33 percent higher risk related to sugary noncolas, and an 18 percent greater risk for punch. Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee use was associated with a 26 percent and 16 percent lower risk, respectively.

What else increases kidney stone risk?
Dehydration. Perhaps the most important risk factor for kidney stone development is a lack of sufficient fluids. However, as the previously mentioned study noted, what you drink is also important when it comes to kidney stones. Maintaining adequately intake of water (about 8 cups daily) is important for the prevention of kidney stones.

Vitamin C. This popular vitamin and antioxidant has lots of benefits, but too much of a good thing can result in kidney stones. An 11-year study from Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm found that men who took high doses (about 1,000 milligrams) of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) daily had a twofold increased risk of developing kidney stones.

The good news from the study’s authors is that their findings “should not be translated to dietary vitamin C.” Therefore, men should not avoid foods high in vitamin C because of worries about kidney stone risk.

Calcium and vitamin D. Research shows that postmenopausal women who take calcium and vitamin D supplements (1,000 mg and 400 IU, respectively) for years may increase their risk of kidney stones by 17 percent. The role of calcium in kidney stone risk may also be related to the intake of salt (see below) and insufficient intake of water, which also is a risk factor for kidney stone formation.

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Salt. Excessive salt consumption can increase one’s risk of kidney stones because salt attaches to calcium and raised the amount of calcium the kidneys need to filter. The most common type of kidney stones consists mainly of calcium and other waste products. Although the kidneys in most people can eliminate extra calcium in urine, for others the calcium stays in the kidneys, raising the chances of kidney stone formation.

Certain medical conditions. If you have undergone gastric bypass surgery or if you have inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhea, hyperparathyroidism, renal tubular acidosis, urinary tract infections, or cystinuria, or if you take certain medications, you are at increased risk of developing kidney stones. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider about your risk.

Obesity. If you have a high body mass index (BMI) and are obese, you are at increased risk of kidney stones.

Genetics and diet: A combination of a genetic factor and diet can increase your risk of kidney stones. Scientists have found that a variation in the gene claudin-14, which is usually inactive, can increase the risk of developing kidney stones by about 65 percent.

In some people who consume too much salt or calcium and who don’t drink enough water, the claudin-14 gene stops calcium from returning to the bloodstream. This activity then results in an accumulation of calcium in the urine, which can lead to kidney stones.

Other dietary factors. Among the other factors in the diet that may contribute to the formation of kidney stones include animal protein, sucrose, and oxalates. In this latter category, foods rich in oxalates are spinach and collard greens (high amounts of oxalates), with lesser amounts in almonds, peanuts, soybeans, and black tea, among others.

The development of kidney stones is mainly associated with dietary choices. You can help prevent kidney stones by avoiding sugary drinks and making other wise food and beverage choices.

Ferraro PM et al. Soda and other beverages and the risk of kidney stones. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 2013 May; DOI:10.2215/CNJ.11661112CJASN
Gong Y et al. Claudin-14 regulates renal CA++ transport in response to CaSR signaling via a novel microRNA pathway. The EMBO Journal 2012 Feb 28
Thomas LDK et al. Ascorbic acid supplements and kidney stone incidence among men: a prospective study. JAMA Internal Medicine 2013; 1-2. DOI:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.2296

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