Many young adults with abdominal obesity are at high risk of developing kidney disease yet majority are unaware of the risks, a new study in New York suggests.
Abdominal obesity is a condition where the waist circumference of non-pregnant women is 35 inches (90 cm) or more, while it is 40 inches (102 cm) or more for males. Past studies have found that abdominal obesity negatively affects the kidneys much earlier than diabetes or high blood pressure.
In the new study, researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx analyzed health records of approximately 7,000 non-pregnant adults aged 20 to 40 years old in the United States.
The records were taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a program that lasted from 1999 to 2010 designed to evaluate the nutritional status and health of adults in the country.
Study participants self-identified as non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic white and Mexican-American.
About 11 percent of obese Mexican-American adults and about 6 percent of obese blacks and whites were found to have high levels of the protein albumin in their urine — a condition called albuminuria.
This condition is a marker that a person's kidneys are not functioning normally and puts a person at risk of developing chronic kidney disease.
Among obese young adults who were detected with albuminuria, at least 5 percent had been diagnosed with kidney disease. About 9 out of 10 of obese young adults were unaware of the kidney disease-related risks.
Researchers also found that too much albumin was present even in the urine of obese adults with normal blood pressure levels, normal glucose levels and normal insulin sensitivity. This confirms a direct link between kidney disease-related albuminuria and obesity.
Prevention Is The Best Option
Study leader Michael Melamed says although chronic kidney disease usually manifests in older people, it can begin much earlier and can be overlooked.
Unfortunately, there aren't many treatment choices for chronic kidney disease, so Melamed says the best method is prevention. For young adults, a healthy lifestyle could go a long way, he says.
Melamed says it is clear that public health officials must do more to identify young people at risk of early progressive kidney disease and treat them so they can adapt to the behavioral changes to prevent the disease.
The details of the study are published in the journal PLoS ONE.