Obesity Increases Young Adults’ Risk of Kidney Disease

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Obesity Increases Young Adults’ Risk of Kidney Disease

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Albuminuria, a sign that the kidneys are not functioning normally, puts one at increased risk for chronic kidney disease.

Obesity in South Africa

South Africa has the highest overweight and obesity rate in sub-Saharan Africa, with up to 70% of women and a third of men being classified as overweight or obese. A staggering 40% of women in our country are obese, which means they have a body mass index greater than 30 kg/m2. However, this is no longer just an adult problem, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 5 boys between the ages of 2 – 14 years are overweight or obese. Obesity is associated with a number of diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension (high blood pressure), joint pain, certain cancers and kidney disease.

Many obese young adults don’t know they’re at increased risk for kidney disease, researchers report.

Elevated albumin levels

“Even though chronic kidney disease typically manifests in older people, the disease can start much earlier but often is not recognised early on,” said study leader Dr Michal Melamed, an associate professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York City.

Melamed’s team analysed data from nearly 7,000 adults, aged 20 to 40, across the United States. The researchers found that 11 percent of obese Mexican-Americans and about 6 percent of obese whites and blacks had elevated levels of the protein albumin in the urine.

This condition, called albuminuria, is a sign that the kidneys are not functioning normally. It puts you at increased risk for chronic kidney disease, the researchers said.

Among young adults with albuminuria, less than 5 percent had been told they had kidney disease, according to the findings published online in the journal PLoS One.

“Clearly, clinicians and public health officials need to do more to identify and treat young people at risk for early progressive kidney disease so they can adopt the behavioural changes to prevent [kidney disease] from occurring,” Melamed said in an Albert Einstein news release.

About one-third of Americans are at risk for chronic kidney disease during their lifetime, typically when they’re older.

Abdominal obesity

“Because treatment options for [chronic kidney disease] are limited, prevention is the best approach for those at risk,” Melamed added. “A healthier lifestyle in young adults will go a long way toward promoting kidney health later in life.”

Previous research has suggested that abdominal obesity may harm kidney function earlier than high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which are associated with obesity.

Abdominal obesity is defined as having a waist circumference of 35 inches or more for non-pregnant females and 40 inches or more for males, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

South Africa’s Dilemma

South Africa is a country that’s been going through a nutrition transition. The bulk of our population used to be physically active and ate a diet high in fibre and indigenous vegetables, low in animal protein and refined carbs. However, due to increased urbanisation, people are adopting a more westernised diet, high in unhealthy fats, sugar and salt. Greater disposable income and a faster paced lifestyle have resulted in people consuming more fast foods and convenience foods. This is partly why there has been an increase in overweight and obesity over the last 15 years




Heart & Stroke Foundation

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The risk of developing kidney disease can be avoided through early detection via blood tests.