Several months ago, I told you about New York Times food writer and columnist Mark Bittman whose novel approach to good health -- being a part-time vegan until 6 p.m. -- lowered his cholesterol and blood sugar to healthy levels, helped him drop 30 pounds and made his sleep apnea vanish. In his words, "It solved everything." A diet, sans the meat, may be just the thing for patients fighting chronic kidney disease too.
The problem stems from the inability of the kidneys to properly regulate phosphorus levels in the blood. Because nearly all foods have phosphorus, it's especially important for kidney disease patients to limit their intake of high-protein foods, like meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds, beans and some legumes and, surprisingly, whole grains too, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Researchers compared the effect of meat-based and vegetarian diets on the phosphorus levels of nine patients with chronic kidney disease by assigning patients to follow one diet for seven days, then the other for same amount of time two to four weeks later.
Although phosphorus and protein concentrations were similar for both diets, blood phosphorus levels were lower when patients followed a vegetarian diet. While part of the scope of the study didn't include determining a reason why there was such a discrepancy between both diets, scientists believe it may be related to consuming a grain-based diet with lower phosphate-to-protein ratios. Additionally, the phosphates in a grain-based diet come in the form of phytate or phytic acid, a principle form of storage for phosphorus in many plants that humans can't digest.
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