Junk Food Can Harm Kidneys as Much as Type 2 Diabetes, Study Finds

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The findings show poor diet can have immediate effects on the body, and they suggest ways to overcome them.

Eating junk food can do just as much harm to the kidneys as having type 2 diabetes (T2D), according to a study published this week.

The effect of consuming lots of high-sugar foods triggers effects on glucose transporters in the kidneys that are similar to those that occur in T2D, researchers reported in Experimental Physiology.

Using rats, the study team examined models of diabetes and diet-induced obesity to see how insulin resistance and high sugar or fat levels affected the kidneys. Rats were fed diets of cheese, chocolate, biscuits, and marshmallows for 8 weeks, or a rodent food mix with 60% fat for 5 weeks.


The team then tested the effects of the diets on glucose transports, including sodium glucose transporters. The high fat and junk food diets produced increases in these receptors was on part with what has been observed in rat models with type 1 and T2D.

“The Western diet contains more and more processed junk food and fat, and there is a well-established link between excessive consumption of this type of food and recent increases in the prevalence of obesity and (T2D),” said Havovi Chichger, PhD, lead author of the study. Both T1D and T2D lead to changes in glucose transport to the kidneys, but the poor diets fed the mice had the effects that were very similar.

A new class of therapy, the SGLT-2 inhibitors, treats diabetes by blocking the protein in the kidney, causing excess glucose to be expelled in the urine. “Understanding how diet can affect sugar handling in the kidneys, and whether the inhibitors can reverse these changes could help to protect the kidneys form further damage,” Chichger said.


Chichger H, Cleasby ME, Srai SK, Unwin RJ, Debnam ES, Marks J. Experimental type 2 diabetes and related models of impaired glucose metabolism differentially regulate glucose transporters at the proximal tubule brush border membrane [published online May 10, 2016]. Exper Physiol. 2016; doi:10.1113/EP085670.