Johns Hopkins Study to Examine Role of Fruit, Vegetables in Protecting Kidneys


Johns Hopkins University is collaborating with the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities will try to determine if eating meals high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and lean meats can protect the kidneys and reduce damage.

The study titled, “5+Nuts & Beans for Kidneys,” targets low-income residents in East Baltimore who have high blood pressure and early stage kidney damage.

The participants will receive free, healthy groceries from ShopRite and will meet on a regular basis to discuss how they can maintain a healthy diet. They will also meet with coaches and clinicians during the trial.

“While in the past research was focused on how best to treat chronic kidney disease, in recent years there has been greater interest in preventing chronic kidney disease in the first place, and the role that diet, and dietary pattern can play,” said Dr. Deidra Crews, an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “Interventions to improve the dietary quality of this high-risk group should consider these factors.”

The National Kidney Foundation discovered that because of high rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, African-Americans have an increased risk of developing kidney failure.

Foundation officials say African-Americans need to be aware of these risk factors and visit their doctor or clinic regularly to check their blood sugar, blood pressure, urine protein and kidney function.

Tests reveal that African-Americans suffer from kidney failure at a significantly higher rate than whites— more than three times higher.

African-Americans constitute more than 35 percent of all patients in the U.S. receiving dialysis for kidney failure, but only represent 13.2 percent of the overall U.S. population.

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure in African-Americans, who are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as whites. Approximately 4.9 million African-Americans over 20 years of age are living with either diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes.

“The homes of urban African-Americans with risk factors for chronic kidney disease were often lacking either the foods or needed appliances for preparing [appropriate] meals,” Crews said, adding that she is looking at whether improving eating habits may help address the differences. “Disparities in kidney disease have not received the attention that they should. There are not very many people working in this area.”

Reportedly, people who eat diets rich in meat, cheese, eggs and other animal-based foods tend to have a higher acid load in their bodies that some research has shown can injure the kidney. Fruits and vegetables have more alkaline qualities.

Beginning this year and continuing for five years, the study will test the effectiveness of dietary advice delivered by a study coach and assistance with weekly online ordering of $30/week worth of potassium rich foods delivered by a local grocer to a community location for reducing urinary albumin excretion among African-Americans with hypertension and chronic kidney disease.

Participants will be recruited from primary care clinics in Baltimore City.

There are two phases of the study.

In Phase 1 (months 1-4), one study arm will consist of minimal guidance from the study team and a weekly allowance of $30 dollars to purchase food and drinks of their choosing from a local grocer.

In Phase 2 (months 5-12) neither study arm will receive a food allowance, however the second arm will receive telephonic visits and dietary advice from the study coach.

Officials are hoping to find concrete solutions after the study is complete. Meanwhile, Crews says diet remains important.

“People who live in poverty have less healthy dietary patterns and their dietary patterns could influence the rate of kidney disease,” she said. “My hope is to examine this modifiable risk factor for poor health and determine if this method of delivering healthy foods improves outcomes for African-Americans with hypertension and kidney disease.”

For more information about the study, visit