Background: End-stage renal disease rates rose following widespread introduction of high fructose corn syrup in the American diet, supporting speculation that fructose harms the kidney. Sugar-sweetened soda is a primary source of fructose. We therefore hypothesized that sugary soda consumption was associated with albuminuria, a sensitive marker for kidney disease.
Methodology/principal findings: Design was a cross-sectional analysis. Data were drawn from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1999-2004. The setting was a representative United States population sample. Participants included adults 20 years and older with no history of diabetes mellitus (n = 12,601); after exclusions for missing outcome and covariate information (n = 3,243), the analysis dataset consisted of 9,358 subjects. Exposure was consumption of two or more sugary soft drinks, based on 24-hour dietary recall. The main outcome measure was Albuminuria, defined by albumin to creatinine ratio cutpoints of >17 mg/g (males) and >25 mg/g (females). Logistic regression adjusted for confounders (diet soda, age, race-ethnicity, gender, poverty). Interactions between age, race-ethnicity, gender, and overweight-obesity were explored. Further analysis adjusted for potential mediators: energy intake, basal metabolic rate, obesity, hypertension, lipids, serum uric acid, smoking, energy expenditure, and glycohemoglobin. Alternative soda intake definitions and cola consumption were employed.
Results: Weighted albuminuria prevalence was 11%, and 17% consumed 2+ sugary soft drinks/day. The confounder-adjusted odds ratio for sugary soda was 1.40 (95% confidence interval: 1.13, 1.74). Associations were modified by gender (p = 0.008) and overweight-obesity (p = 0.014). Among women, the OR was 1.86 (95% CI: 1.37, 2.53); the OR among males was not significant. In the group with body mass under 25 kg/m(2), OR = 2.15 (95% confidence interval: 1.42, 3.25). Adjustment for potential mediators and use of alternative definitions of albuminuria and soda consumption did not appreciably change results. Diet sodas were not associated with albuminuria.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that sugary soda consumption may be associated with kidney damage, although moderate consumption of 1 or fewer sodas does not appear to be harmful. Additional studies are needed to assess whether HFCS itself, overall excess intake of sugar, or unmeasured lifestyle and confounding factors are responsible.