Dietary Sugar and Artificial Sweetener Intake and Chronic Kidney Disease: A Review

  • Vytas P. Karalius
    Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago, Maywood, IL
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  • David A. Shoham
    Address correspondence to David A. Shoham, PhD, MSPH, Loyola University Medical Center, Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, 2160 S. First Avenue, Maywood, IL 60153.
    Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago, Maywood, IL
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      Sugar consumption, especially in the form of fructose, has been hypothesized to cause kidney disease. This review provides an overview of the epidemiologic evidence that sugar consumption increases CKD risk. Research supports a causal role of sugar in several kidney disease risk factors, including increasing serum uric acid levels, diabetes, and obesity. Sugar may also harm the kidney via other mechanisms. There is no evidence that sucrose is any safer for the kidney than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) because both are similar in composition. To date, 5 epidemiologic studies have directly evaluated the relationship between sugar consumption (in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages) and CKD. Although most studies suggest that the risk of CKD is elevated among consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages, only 2 studies report statistically significant associations. Three studies have also examined diet soda consumption, with two reporting positive and significant associations. Confounding by unmeasured lifestyle factors may play a role in the positive results whereas poor measurement of sugar and artificial sweetener intake could explain null results. Nevertheless, the hypothesis that sugar causes kidney disease remains plausible, and alternative research designs may be needed.

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