Kidney patients slash medicine costs by eating fruit and veg

Monday, 26 September, 2016

A study has shown that adding more fruits and vegetables to the diet of people with kidney disease improved blood pressure and cut medication expenses nearly in half.

Diseased kidneys are less able to eliminate acid from the body, which can create abnormally high acid levels in the blood — a condition called metabolic acidosis. People with kidney disease are often treated with sodium bicarbonate to neutralise this excess acid. Because many fruits and vegetables naturally reduce acid after they are digested, metabolic acidosis can also be treated by increasing those fruits and vegetables in the diet.

In the study, which was presented at the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure 2016 Scientific Sessions, researchers compared blood pressure control in patients who received acidosis treatment via sodium bicarbonate or fruits and vegetables to patients who did not receive acidosis treatment. Acidosis treatment was intended to cut the acid load on the kidneys by half. All patients (36 in each group) were treated with medications to reduce their systolic (upper number) blood pressure to less than 130 mm Hg.

Researchers found that after 5 years, the average systolic blood pressure was lower (125 mm Hg) in the fruit and vegetable group than in patients receiving sodium bicarbonate (135 mm Hg) or no acidosis treatment (134 mm Hg).

By the end of the study, daily doses of blood pressure drugs were lower in the fruit and vegetable group than in patients receiving sodium bicarbonate or no acidosis treatment, with the average 5-year drug cost for maintaining blood pressure nearly halved in the fruit and vegetable group ($79,760) compared with the sodium bicarbonate ($155,372) or no treatment groups ($152,305).

“It was remarkable that we achieved better blood pressure control using fewer drugs and without forcing people to change their diet completely. Instead, we provided food for the entire family so they could add fruits and vegetables to what they normally eat. This was important because many of these patients lived in neighbourhoods without access to fruits and vegetables through local food banks or grocery stores,” said Nimrit Goraya, MD, study author and program director for nephrology at Baylor Scott & White Health in Temple, Texas.

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