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Why dietary fat is so important for the kidneys
Article posted in: Dialysis

Dietary Fats

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional prior to beginning any diet or exercise program or taking any dietary supplement. The content on our website is for informational and educational purposes only.


Editors Note: Did you know that eating the right kind of fat for kidneys may be a good thing? Today, Dr. Henderson brings us an interesting perspective on dietary fats that are beneficial for kidney patients. Please remember, these information is for educational purposes only. 

The kidneys are one of the fattiest tissues in the body.  Only the brain is more concentrated in fat than the kidneys.  One of the most important ways to live a kidney-friendly lifestyle is to supply the body with good fats.  The right kind of fats can protect the kidney from damage and decrease the inflammation associated with nephrotic syndrome, helping us preserve our kidney function.  And the wrong kinds of fats can increase inflammation and accelerate the rate of damage to the kidneys. That’s why it’s so important to choose the right types of fat for kidneys.

Omega-3 in Food

Omega-3 fatty acids have earned a reputation for helping the heart, but more and more we recognize that they’re also good for the kidneys.  A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids can promote kidney health and decrease proteinuria.  Wild salmon and mackerel are excellent choices for obtaining omega-3 fatty acids in the diet.

Omega-3 Supplements

We may also choose to use fish oil supplements.  A good fish oil supplement will include two type of fatty acids– DHA and EPA.  It’s the EPA that’s especially helpful for the kidneys.   Fish oil supplements do not contain phosphorus typically, but one should avoid krill oil and algae supplements that are often very high in phosphorus.  Algae supplements also have a much higher ratio of DHA to EPA.  As these fatty acids can compete for absorption, it can be difficult to obtain adequate EPA through algae.  Another type of fish oil to avoid is cod liver oil. Vitamin A often runs high in kidney patients and cod liver oil is extremely high in vitamin A.

Omega-3 in Flaxseed

Another food source of omega-3 fatty acids is flax seed oil.  Although flaxseed oil is not as well absorbed as fish oil, it can be beneficial for kidney patients.  Flaxseed oil must be used raw and kept refrigerated.  It can be used over salads like olive oil or mixed into smoothies. Barlean’s brand is a good quality.  It comes in regular and high-lignan which contains particulates of the seeds.  I advise patients to use regularly as the high lignin variety is also higher in phosphorus.

Inflammatory Oils

Not only is getting enough omega-3 fatty acid important, the ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 is very important.  The typical American diet is very high in omega-6 fatty acids which promote inflammation and can weaken the kidneys.  High omega-6 oils include canola, safflower, sunflower, sesame, corn oil, wheat germ oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil and vegetable oil.  These oils are especially inflammatory when they’re used for deep frying and are not recommended fat for kidneys.  Hydrogenated oils like margarine also promote inflammation.  An unexpected alternative to these oils is macadamia oil, which has a very favorable omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and can withstand medium cooking temperatures.

Other Fats for Kidneys

Other oils that can benefit the kidneys, which are neither omega-6 nor omega-3s, are olive oil, coconut oil and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).  Olive oil is monounsaturated oil and helps promote heart health, which is an important long term for kidney patients.  It should be used raw or at a very low heat.  Coconut oil has been shown to slow the formation of scar tissue in the kidneys.  This is good news for kidney patients with FSGS and IgA nephropathy, two conditions that are notorious for causing the kidney to break down and scar.  Coconut oil is also useful for diabetics as the medium-chain triglycerides of coconut oil can be used as energy without requiring insulin to enter the cell.  Coconut oil, coconut milk, and shredded coconut all contain the favorable fatty acids, but coconut water does not.  As a cooking oil, coconut oil can withstand high temperatures.

CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid)

CLA is also useful for kidney patients.  One study of CLA in an animal model showed those given CLA survived almost twice as long as those who did not have CLA in their diets.  CLA is also useful for many diabetics for weight loss.  Another benefit of CLA is that it decreases levels of parathyroid hormone.  Many late stage kidney patients and those on dialysis suffer bone loss due to the elevated parathyroid hormone.  CLA may be an ally in the struggle to maintain bone density with chronic kidney disease.  CLA naturally occurs in grass fed meat and dairy products.

Kidney patients who are on a low protein diet may choose to take supplemental CLA.

The Take Away

In summary, kidney patients would do well to avoid high omega-6 oils and hydrogenated oils especially when they’re used to fry foods.  Naturally occurring Omega-3 fatty acids from fish or flaxseed oil may be a beneficial part of the diet.  Flaxseed oil is best raw.  Olive oil is good raw or at a very low temperature.  Macadamia oil is also a good choice and it can withstand medium heat.  Coconut oil is useful for kidney patients as well and coconut oil can withstand a higher heat.  CLA is helpful to many kidney patients but can be difficult to obtain on a low protein diet.  Incorporating th right fat for kidneys and avoiding the wrong ones can be an important part of a kidney-friendly lifestyle.

So, be sure to speak with your healthcare professionals regarding what fat for kidneys is the best.

Dr. Henderson

As the Founder of Holistic Kidney (Connecticut), Dr. Jenna Henderson has been studying renal disease since 1993. A kidney patient herself, Dr. Henderson knows the process of kidney failure first hand and applies her experience to help kidney patients worldwide. As a naturopathic doctor from the University of Bridgeport, she works hard to help kidney patients live a long, happy life and stay off dialysis. Her safe and effective therapies are holistic and natural, and they help to preserve kidney function naturally. Her advice is sought by many patients and practitioners when other approaches to kidney disease have failed. She has been interviewed on public radio and published in Natural Medicine Journal.Nearly 3,500 people follow her updates on Holistic Kidney on Facebook.

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