Lower albumin in urine may raise kidney disease risk

In a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers have uncovered crucial information about chronic kidney disease (CKD) that could change how we approach its treatment.

The study, which delved into the relationship between albuminuria (the presence of albumin protein in the urine) and the progression of CKD, has revealed that even low levels of albumin in the urine, previously considered normal, might indicate a higher risk of disease progression and kidney failure.

Traditionally, medical professionals have focused on moderate (30 to 300 mg/g) to severe (>300 mg/g) levels of albumin in the urine as major red flags for the progression of CKD.

Yet, there’s been a gap in understanding the significance of lower levels of albuminuria, particularly those under 30 mg/g, which are typically classified as within the normal range.

This study, conducted by the Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, aimed to fill that gap.

The research team analyzed data from 1,629 participants of the Chronic Renal Insufficiency Cohort (CRIC) study, focusing on those with CKD who exhibited levels of albumin in their urine below the previously concerning threshold.

By examining the urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR)—a key indicator of kidney health—they assessed the relationship between albuminuria levels and CKD progression over a decade.

What they found was striking. Higher levels of albuminuria, even below 30 mg/g, were associated with a significant increase in the risk of CKD worsening or leading to kidney failure.

Specifically, participants with a UACR of 15 mg/g or more faced a 7.9% to 10.7% higher risk of CKD progression and a 5.1% to 6.3% higher risk of kidney failure over 10 years compared to those with lower UACR levels.

These findings challenge the current understanding of CKD management, suggesting that even “normal” levels of albumin in the urine could be a cause for concern.

The implication is clear: there may be benefits to intervening earlier in patients with CKD, potentially at albuminuria levels previously considered safe.

This research opens up new questions about the optimal timing for interventions aimed at reducing protein in the urine. If lowering albumin levels even further could indeed improve outcomes for those with CKD, it might necessitate a shift in treatment protocols.

Currently, the focus tends to be on individuals with higher levels of albuminuria, but this study indicates that expanding our concern could help prevent the progression of kidney disease in a broader population.

As with any groundbreaking study, further research will be crucial to confirm these findings and translate them into clinical practice.

But the message is clear: what we considered “normal” levels of albumin in urine might need a reevaluation, pointing toward earlier intervention to potentially save more people from the advanced stages of chronic kidney disease.

If you care about kidney health, please read studies about pesticide linked to chronic kidney disease, and this drug may prevent kidney failure in people with diabetes.

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The research findings can be found in Annals of Internal Medicine.

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