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High-Protein Diets Could Increase Risk of Kidney Problems

Last updated Aug. 31, 2015

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

Dr. Pierre Dukan’s controversial high-protein diet along with other high-protein diets have gained popularity over the past few years in France. Around two million French natives follow the diet to slim down like Jennifer Lopez; however, there have been red flags with the diet that caused the British Dietary Association to rank the diet number one in diets to avoid in 2010, 2011, and 2012.


Dr. Pierre Dukan’s controversial high-protein diet along with other high-protein diets have gained popularity over the past few years in France. Around two million French natives follow the diet to slim down like Jennifer Lopez; however, there have been red flags with the diet that caused the British Dietary Association to rank the diet number one in diets to avoid in 2010, 2011, and 2012.

According to the British Dietary Association, even Dr. Dukan – who was banned from practicing as a general practitioner in France in 2013— warned many about the adverse health effect associated with the high-protein diet, including fatigue, constipation, bad breath, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Scientists at the University of Granada in Spain conducted a study where the researchers fed 10 rats a diet consisting 45% protein, while the control group of 10 rats were fed normal protein levels. The rats were placed on their diets for 12 weeks – or 9 years in human terms.

After 12 weeks, the researchers found the rats on high-protein diets with a 10% weight reduction compared to their normal diet counterparts. The weights of the high-protein diet rats’ kidneys, however, increased by 22%, the capillaries filtering blood to the kidneys increased in size by 13%, and the collagen around the capillaries increased by 32%.

Also, the citrate levels in the rats’ urine were 88% lower and the urinary pH was 15% more acidic. Low citrate levels and high kidney weight are risk factors for kidney stone formation. High urine pH is, also, a symptom of kidney failure along with other conditions.

One of the study’s authors, Dr. Virginia A. Aparicio, told Medical News Today, “When experimental designs are done in rats, despite their great physiological and metabolic similarity to humans, all results should be taken with caution… Studies developed in humans have also observed very similar results in plasma and urine to what we observed in rats. However, the important thing is not to alarm the population. We just showed a less favorable renal profile, which could bring long-term renal complications in some individuals more prone to or at increased risk of renal disease.”

As advice, Dr. Aparicio suggests eating large amounts of fruits and vegetables to reduce the risk of kidney stones forming. Also, anyone on a high-protein diet should exercise regularly to increase active tissue.

References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Jan. 29, 2014
Last updated: Aug. 31, 2015