Renal disease in obesity: the need for greater attention

J Ren Nutr. 2006 Jul;16(3):216-23. doi: 10.1053/j.jrn.2006.04.017.


Excess body weight may be associated with various functional/structural lesions of the kidney. The spectrum ranges from glomerulomegaly with or without focal or segmental glomerulosclerosis, to diabetic nephropathy, to carcinoma of the kidney and nephrolithiasis. The first sign of renal injury is microalbuminuria or frank proteinuria, in particular in the presence of hypertension. The occurrence of microalbuminuria and/or chronic kidney insufficiency (glomerular filtration rate < 60 mL/min/1.73 m2) is related to the increasing number of components of the metabolic syndrome, ie, central obesity, elevated fasting blood glucose level, hypertriglycerides, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and hypertension. In the long run, end-stage renal failure may develop. An increased body mass index is particularly harmful in patients with reduced renal functional mass (unilateral renal agenesis or nephrectomy) and other renal diseases (immunoglobulin A nephritis and chronic graft dysfunction after kidney transplantation). In the pathogenesis of obesity-associated glomerulopathy, hyperfiltration is of fundamental importance. The factors involved are energy intake (high protein and salt), hyperinsulinemia, and enhanced tubuloglomerular feedback because of increased sodium reabsorption. The adrenergic and renin-angiotensin-aldosterone systems as well as glucocorticoids are stimulated. In addition, several active proteins generated in the central adipose tissue, such as leptin, proinflammatory cytokines, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, angiotensinogen, and growth factors (transforming growth factor-beta1), as well as low levels of the protective adiponectin, may contribute to renal injury. Of greatest importance is the development of hypertension and of diabetes, which are directly related to the severity of central obesity. Obesity-associated renal disease should be prevented or retarded by weight reduction following lifestyle modification (salt restriction, hypocaloric diet, aerobic exercise), or eventually by antiobesity medication or bariatric surgery. In the presence of glomerulopathy and/or hypertension, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin II type I receptor blockers are the drugs of choice to improve glomerular hyperfiltration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / complications
  • Female
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Kidney Calculi / complications
  • Kidney Diseases / complications*
  • Kidney Diseases / therapy
  • Kidney Neoplasms / complications
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Proteinuria
  • Risk Factors