High Added Sugar Intake May Raise Kidney Stone Risk

High Added Sugar Intake May Raise Kidney Stone Risk

Fast Facts

Prevalence: About 10% of Americans will develop kidney stones in their lifetime

Risk Increase: Consuming over 25% of daily calories from added sugars raises kidney stone risk by 88%

Key Findings: The study analyzed data from over 28,300 participants from NHANES

Dietary Impact: Added sugars in processed foods like sodas and candies are significant contributors

Health Advice: Reducing added sugars can lower the risk of kidney stones and other health issues.

A diet rich in added sugars might heighten a person’s susceptibility to kidney stones, as suggested by recent research. Published in “Frontiers in Nutrition,” the study indicates that reducing added sugar intake could potentially lower the risk of developing kidney stones. Added sugars are prevalent in many processed foods, particularly in sugar-sweetened sodas, fruit drinks, candy, ice cream, cakes, and cookies.

Impact of Kidney Stones

The potential impact of this research is significant, given that approximately 10% of Americans are likely to develop kidney stones during their lifetime.

Research Findings

Shan Yin, MD, the study’s author and a urologist at the Affiliated Hospital of North Sichuan Medical College in Nanchong, China, emphasized that more research is needed to confirm if added sugar directly causes kidney stones. However, the study does suggest a notable association between high added sugar consumption and kidney stones.

Anna Zisman, MD, director of the kidney stone prevention program at the University of Chicago Medicine, pointed out that processed foods and sugars have long been known to increase the risk of kidney stones. She believes the study reaffirms this and should influence dietary counseling for kidney stone patients.

Why Diet Matters

Kidney stones form when excess minerals in the urine crystallize into stones, which can be extremely painful and lead to infections, swollen kidneys, renal insufficiency, and even end-stage renal disease. Known risk factors include being male, obesity, chronic diarrhea, dehydration, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, and gout. This new study adds high added sugar consumption to the list of potential risk factors.

Study Details

The researchers analyzed data from over 28,300 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) collected between 2007 and 2018. Participants, aged 20 and older, reported their history of kidney stones and their daily intake of added sugars through interviews that recorded their recent food consumption.

Each participant received a healthy eating index score, evaluating their diet’s beneficial components (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) and harmful elements (refined grains, sodium, saturated fats). After adjusting for age, race, gender, and comorbidities like diabetes, the researchers found a higher prevalence of kidney stones in those whose diet included a high percentage of added sugars.

Specifically, those who consumed more than 25% of their total calories from added sugars had an 88% higher risk of developing kidney stones compared to those who consumed less than 5% of their calories from added sugars. The study also noted that certain ethnic groups, including Native American and Asian participants, had a higher likelihood of developing kidney stones when consuming large amounts of added sugars compared to other ethnic groups.

Diet’s Role in Kidney Stone Risk

While the research doesn’t conclusively prove that added sugars cause kidney stones, it highlights a significant association. The observational nature of the study and reliance on self-reported data are limitations, warranting further studies to explore this link in detail.

Other dietary factors are also known to influence kidney stone risk. Different types of kidney stones—calcium stones, uric acid stones, and cystine stones—are associated with various dietary components. For instance, calcium stones are linked to oxalate-rich foods, sodium, and animal proteins, while uric acid stones are associated with high animal protein intake. Adequate hydration is crucial for preventing cystine stones.

Preventive Measures

Kidney stones can vary widely in presentation, from being asymptomatic to causing severe, chronic pain. The high rate of emergency room visits and significant healthcare costs associated with kidney stones make prevention essential. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, blood in the urine, fevers, and severe flank pain.

Given the increasing global prevalence of kidney stones over the past three decades, driven in part by highly processed and unhealthy diets, dietary improvements are critical. Reducing added sugar intake can also help lower risks of other health issues like cardiovascular disease, cognitive problems, diabetes, obesity, and some cancers.


Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet, is crucial for reducing the risk of kidney stones. For individuals with a history of kidney stones, personalized evaluation of risk factors is recommended. Overall, avoiding processed foods and added sugars is beneficial for a variety of health reasons, including the prevention of kidney stones.

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