Damaging Diets: Could the ‘Fast Food Diet’ Cause Kidney Problems?

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12th May 2016

It’s no real shock to discover that a junk food diet isn’t the most sensible way to stay healthy and lose weight, but a study carried out by researchers at Anglia Ruskin University has shown that this type of diet could cause the same amount of kidney damage as diabetes.

In type 2 diabetes, the body can either fail to react to insulin or fail to produce enough of it. This leads to a build-up of sugar in the blood, leading to serious, long-term consequences for some organs in the body. In the case of the kidneys, it can cause diabetic kidney disease.

The research was funded by the charity Diabetes UK and published in the Experimental Physiology journal. Headed by Dr Havovi Chichger, the study used animal models of diabetes and models of insulin resistance and diet-induced obesity to examine how too much fat or sugar and insulin resistance influence the kidney’s glucose transporters. The researchers discovered that glucose transportation in those following junk food diets is very comparable to that observed in type 2 diabetes.

This study came after Cambridge University researchers found that neighbourhoods with lots of fast food outlets could be particularly unhealthy for those at a socio-economic disadvantage. Studies carried out by CEDAR (the Centre for Diet and Activity Research) revealed that people most exposed to takeaways and least educated were more than three times more likely to suffer with obesity than those least exposed to takeaways and most educated.

Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University fed rats a diet of marshmallows, cheese, biscuits, crisps, flapjacks, muffins, doughnuts and chocolate bars for two months, or “rodent chow”, which is high in fat content, for five weeks.

The effects of the two diets was then tested on blood sugar levels and the kidneys’ various glucose transporters. The researchers found that certain types of glucose transporters (SGLT and GLUT) along with their regulatory proteins, were found in a larger number in rats with type 2 diabetes. In these receptors, a junk food diet and a high fat diet caused a comparable increase.

Senior lecturer in Biomedical Science at the Anglia Ruskin, Dr Chichger, led the research whilst at University College London. He said that diets in western cultures continue to increase in fat and processed junk food and pointed out there is an established link between excessively eating this type of food and an increase in cases of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Dr Chichger said that in the study, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes induced changes in the transportation of glucose in the kidney. However, he said that a high fat diet or junk food diet invites changes very similar to those seen in type 2 diabetes. Dr Chichger said that understanding how diet can affect how the kidneys handle sugar and understanding whether these changes can be reversed using new inhibitors might help to protect the kidneys from additional damage.