The safety of a low protein diet in older adults with advanced chronic kidney disease

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2024 Mar 27:gfae077. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfae077. Online ahead of print.


Background: A low protein diet (LPD) is recommended to patients with advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD), whereas geriatric guidelines recommend a higher amount of protein. The aim of this study was to evaluate the safety of LPD treatment in older adults with advanced CKD.

Methods: The EQUAL study is a prospective, observational study, including patients ≥65 years, incident estimated glomerular filtration rate <20 ml/min/1.73m², in six European countries with follow-up up till six years. Nutritional status was assessed by 7-point subjective global assessment (SGA) every 3-6 months. Prescribed diet (gram protein/kilogram/bodyweight) was recorded on every study visit; measured protein intake was available in three countries. Time to death and decline in nutritional status (SGA decrease by ≥2 points) were analysed using marginal structural models with dynamic inverse probability of treatment and censoring weights.

Results: Out of 1738 adults (631 prescribed LPD at any point during follow-up) there were 1319 with repeated SGA measurements of which 267 (20%) declined in SGA ≥ 2 points and 565 (32.5%) died. There was no difference in survival or decline in nutritional status for patients prescribed LPD ≤0.8 g/kg ideal bodyweight (Odds Ratio (OR) for mortality 1.15 (95% Confidence interval (CI) 0.86-1.55) and OR for decline in SGA 1.11 (95% CI 0.74-1.66) in the adjusted models. In patients prescribed LPD <0.6 g/kg ideal bodyweight, the results were similar. There was a significant interaction with LPD and higher age >75 years, lower SGA, and higher comorbidity burden for both mortality and nutritional status decline.

Conclusions: In older adults with CKD approaching end-stage kidney disease, a traditional LPD prescribed and monitored according to routine clinical practice in Europe appears to be safe.

Keywords: CKD; age; malnutrition; nutrition; survival analysis.