Diet and renal stone formation

Minerva Med. 2013 Feb;104(1):41-54.


The relationship between diet and the formation of renal stones is demonstrated, but restrictive diets do not take into account the complexity of metabolism and the complex mechanisms that regulate the saturation and crystallization processes in the urine. The restriction of dietary calcium can reduce the urinary excretion of calcium but severe dietary restriction of calcium causes hyperoxaluria and a progressive loss of bone mineral component. Furthermore urinary calcium excretion is influenced by other nutrients than calcium as sodium, potassium, protein and refined carbohydrates. Up to 40% of the daily excretion of oxalate in the urine is from dietary source, but oxalate absorption in the intestine depends linearly on the concomitant dietary intake of calcium and is influenced by the bacterial degradation by several bacterial species of intestinal flora. A more rational approach should be based on the cumulative effects of foods and different dietary patterns on urinary saturation rather than on the effect of single nutrients. A diet based on a adequate intake of calcium (1000-1200 mg per day) and containment of animal protein and salt can decrease significantly urinary supersaturation for calcium oxalate and reduce the relative risk of stone recurrence in hypercalciuric renal stone formers. The DASH-style diet that is high in fruits and vegetables, moderate in low-fat dairy products and low in animal proteins and salt is associated with a lower relative supersaturation for calcium oxalate and a marked decrease in risk of incident stone formation. All the diets above mentioned have as a common characteristic the reduction of the potential acid load of the diet that can be correlated with a higher risk of recurrent nephrolithiasis, because the acid load of diet is inversely related to urinary citrate excretion. The restriction of protein and salt with an adequate calcium intake seem to be advisable but should be implemented with the advice to increase the intake of vegetables that can carry a plentiful supply of alkali that counteract the acid load coming from animal protein. New prospective studies to evaluate the effectiveness of the diet for the prevention of renal stones should be oriented to simple dietary advices that should be focused on a few specific goals easily controlled by means of self-evaluation tools, such as the LAKE food screener.

MeSH terms

  • Acids / metabolism
  • Beverages
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium Oxalate / metabolism
  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Calcium, Dietary / metabolism
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Drinking Water / administration & dosage
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Hyperoxaluria / etiology
  • Kidney Calculi / etiology*
  • Kidney Calculi / metabolism
  • Kidney Calculi / prevention & control
  • Oxalates / administration & dosage
  • Oxalates / metabolism
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Sodium, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Sodium, Dietary / metabolism
  • Vegetables


  • Acids
  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Drinking Water
  • Oxalates
  • Sodium, Dietary
  • Calcium Oxalate
  • Calcium