Plant-based Diets in Kidney Disease: Nephrology Professionals' Perspective

J Ren Nutr. 2022 Sep;32(5):552-559. doi: 10.1053/j.jrn.2021.09.008. Epub 2021 Nov 12.

Abstract

Objective: Plant-based diets can delay the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and help manage complications and co-morbid conditions such as hypertension, acidosis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. However, it is unclear how often plant-based diets are recommended to patients with kidney disease. The objective of this study was to understand nephrology professionals' familiarity, perception, and recommendation of plant-based diets to people with kidney disease.

Design and methods: A survey to understand perception of recommendation of plant-based diets for patients with CKD was developed. Nephrology professionals from the National Kidney Foundation's member directory were e-mailed a link to complete the survey online. This directory includes professionals who work in a variety of nephrology settings, including both CKD and end-stage renal disease care. Survey items were evaluated with descriptive statistics. Differences across items were determined using chi-square tests and t-tests.

Results: A total of 3,901 professionals were sent the survey, and 644 completed the survey. A majority were dietitians (58%) and worked in dialysis clinics (54%). Most (88%) had heard of using plant-based diets for kidney disease treatment, and a majority (88%) believed it could improve CKD management, cardiovascular disease (90%), hypertension (90%), diabetes (84%), high cholesterol (90%), and obesity (84%). Dietitians were more likely to report plant-based diets as beneficial for each health condition (P < .05). Professionals were most confident that a plant-based diet could help control hypertension (3.75 ± 0.99 on a scale of 1-5), compared with delaying progression of CKD (3.68 ± 1.15) or treating acidosis (3.68 ± 1.13). Dietitians felt more confident in their ability to plan a balanced plant-based diet compared with other specialties (3.49 vs. 2.74, P < .001).

Conclusion: Nephrology professionals who work in nondialysis-dependent CKD settings, and those who work with patients on dialysis, are aware of the benefits of plant-based diets in kidney disease. However, plant-based diets are not routinely being offered as a treatment option. Nephrology practices should work to increase dietitian referrals to offer patients support in transitioning to a plant-based diet.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases*
  • Diet, Vegetarian
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Hypertension*
  • Nephrology*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic* / therapy