Dietary protein restriction and the progression of chronic renal disease: what have all of the results of the MDRD study shown? Modification of Diet in Renal Disease Study group

J Am Soc Nephrol. 1999 Nov;10(11):2426-39. doi: 10.1681/ASN.V10112426.


The Modification of Diet in Renal Disease (MDRD) Study was the largest randomized clinical trial to test the hypothesis that protein restriction slows the progression of chronic renal disease. However, the primary results published in 1994 were not conclusive with regard to the efficacy of this intervention. Many physicians interpreted the failure of the MDRD Study to demonstrate a beneficial effect of protein restriction over a 2- to 3-yr period as proving that this therapy does not slow disease progression. The authors believe that this viewpoint is incorrect, and is the result of misinterpretation of inconclusive evidence as evidence in favor of the null hypothesis. Since then, numerous secondary analyses of the MDRD Study have been undertaken to clarify the effect of protein restriction on the rate of decline in GFR, urine protein excretion, and onset of end-stage renal disease. This review describes some of the principles of secondary analyses of randomized clinical trials, presents the results of these analyses from the MDRD Study, and compares them with results from other randomized clinical trials. Although these secondary results cannot be regarded as definitive, the authors conclude that the balance of evidence is more consistent with the hypothesis of a beneficial effect of protein restriction than with the contrary hypothesis of no beneficial effect. Until additional data become available, physicians must continue to make recommendations in the absence of conclusive results. The authors suggest that physicians incorporate the results of these secondary analyses into their interpretation of the findings of the MDRD Study.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Kidney Diseases / physiopathology
  • Polycystic Kidney Diseases / diet therapy
  • Polycystic Kidney Diseases / physiopathology
  • Proteinuria / diet therapy
  • Proteinuria / physiopathology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Dietary Proteins