Obesity ‘linked to kidney disease in later life’

PUTTING on weight in your early adult years can significantly increase your risk of developing kidney disease in later life, research suggests.

A study has found that people who were overweight around the ages of 26 to 36 were twice as likely to have chronic kidney disease (CKD) by the time they were 60 to 64 compared to those who did not put on weight until later in life or not at all.

The researchers said the findings suggested that preventing people putting on weight in early adulthood could have a considerable impact on the numbers falling ill with kidney problems.

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For the latest work a team from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analysed information from the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development.

The survey covers a sample of children born in one week in March 1946 in Scotland, Wales and England and more than 4,500 had data on their body mass index – a measurement of weight in relation to height – at the ages of 20, 26, 36, 43 and 60 to 64.

The researchers, led by Richard Silverwood and Dorothea Nitsch, wanted to assess what effect being overweight or obese might have on kidney health.

Writing in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, the researchers found a doubling of the risk of CKD in later life among those who were overweight in their late twenties or early thirties. They also found that having an apple-shaped body, with a larger waist-to-hip ratio, during middle-age was linked to kidney disease between the ages of 60 to 64.

The researchers said that more than a third of CKD cases in later life could be avoided if nobody became overweight until they were over 60. Dr Nitsch said: “We estimated that 36 per cent of CKD cases at age 60 to 64 in the current US population could be avoided if nobody became overweight until at least that age.”

The researchers said it was unclear whether the timing of weight gain or the length of time someone was overweight was behind the link with CKD.

But they said either way the findings suggested that preventing excess weight gain in early adulthood could have a considerable effect on limiting the numbers of people suffering kidney problems.

The researchers said preventing weight gain appeared to have a larger effect than any known treatment for CKD.

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Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum and Child Growth Foundation, said he believed the duration of being overweight was most likely causing the health problems such as kidney disease seen in later life.

“There has been a lot of work that shows the longer you are fat, the more likely you are to become worse in your old age and die early. The big message is don’t get fat in the first place.”

Elaine Davies, head of research operations at Kidney Research UK which funded the study, said: “This study is another step forward for Kidney Research UK.”