Effects of dietary protein restriction on the progression of advanced renal disease in the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease Study

Am J Kidney Dis. 1996 May;27(5):652-63. doi: 10.1016/s0272-6386(96)90099-2.


Patients with advanced renal disease randomized to the very low-protein diet group in the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease (MDRD) Study had a marginally (P = 0.066) slower mean glomerular filtration rate (GFR) decline compared with patients randomized to the low-protein diet group. The objective of these secondary analyses was to determine the relationship between achieved, in addition to prescribed, dietary protein intake and the progression of advanced renal disease. A randomized controlled trial was conducted in patients with chronic renal diseases of diverse etiology. The average follow-up was 2.2 years. Fifteen university hospital outpatient nephrology practices participated in the study, which comprised 255 patients aged 18 to 70 years with a baseline GFR 13 to 24 mL/min/1.73 m2 who participated in MDRD Study B. Patients with diabetes requiring insulin were excluded. The patients were given a low-protein (0.58 g/kg/d) or very low-protein (0.28 g/kg/d) diet supplemented with keto acids-amino acids (0.28 g/kg/d). Outcomes were measured by comparisons of protein intake from food or from food and supplement between randomized groups, and correlations of protein intake with rate of decline in GFR and time to renal failure or death. Comparison of the randomized groups showed that total protein intake from food and supplement was lower (P < 0.001) among patients randomized to the very low-protein diet (0.66 g/kg/d) compared with protein intake from food only in patients randomized to the low-protein diet (0.73 g/kg/d). In correlational analyses, we combined patients assigned to both diets and controlled for baseline factors associated with a faster progression of renal disease. A 0.2 g/kg/d lower achieved total protein intake (including food and supplement) was associated with a 1.15 mL/min/yr slower mean decline in GFR (P = 0.011), equivalent to 29% of the mean GFR decline. After adjusting for achieved total protein intake, no independent effect of prescription of the keto acid-amino acid supplement to slow the GFR decline could be detected. If the GFR decline is extrapolated until renal failure, a patient with a 29% reduction in the rate of GFR decline would experience a 41% prolongation in the time to renal failure. Additional analyses confirmed a longer time to renal failure in patients with lower total protein intake. In conclusion, these secondary analyses of the MDRD Study suggest that a lower protein intake, but not the keto acid-amino acid supplement, retards the progression of advanced renal disease. In patients with GFR less than 25 mL/min/1.73 m2, we suggest a prescribed dietary protein intake of 0.6 g/kg/d.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amino Acids / administration & dosage
  • Chronic Disease
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Creatinine / urine
  • Diet, Protein-Restricted*
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Food, Fortified
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Humans
  • Keto Acids / administration & dosage
  • Kidney Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Kidney Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proteinuria / urine
  • Renal Insufficiency / prevention & control
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Amino Acids
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Keto Acids
  • Creatinine