With an ever-increasing number of individuals turning to vegan diets for health, environmental, and ethical reasons, it is important to look at the potential risks associated with this lifestyle. One potential risk factor is the development of kidney stones. So, does following a vegan diet put people at a higher risk for developing kidney stones? Let’s take a closer look at vegan diet and kidney stones.
What are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are small, solid masses that form from crystallized minerals in the body’s urine. These stones can range in size from a grain of sand to as large as a pearl. If they remain small enough, they may pass out of your system without any treatment; however, larger stones can become lodged in your urinary tract and cause significant pain.
Diets and Kidney Stone Formation
A number of studies have suggested that certain types of diets can increase an individual’s risk of developing kidney stones. Of these diets, plant-based diets—including vegetarian and vegan diets—seem to increase the risk more than others due to their higher content of oxalate-containing foods such as spinach, rhubarb, beets, nuts, seeds, and chocolate. Oxalates bind to calcium in the body and form crystals which can eventually turn into kidney stones if left unchecked.
The Role of Protein Intake
One study conducted by Maki et al. found that individuals who had higher intakes of animal protein (such as meat and dairy) were at lower risk for developing kidney stones than those who consumed primarily plant proteins (i.e., vegans). This suggests that vegans may need to be extra careful about ensuring adequate protein intake from plant sources such as beans, lentils, nuts, and other legumes in order to reduce their risk for stone formation.
Risk Factors Beyond Diet
It is important to note that while diet certainly plays an important role in kidney stone formation, there are other factors at play as well such as genetics, dehydration levels, amounts of physical activity taken per day, etc. As such it is important not just to focus on dietary changes but also on lifestyle changes when trying to reduce one’s risk for stone formation.
All in all, it appears that there may be some link between vegan diets and increased risks for developing kidney stones; however, this link is far from conclusive due to the complex web of factors involved with both diet choices and stone formation itself. Thus individuals should seek advice from their medical practitioner before making any drastic dietary changes if they have a family history or other predispositions toward forming these types of stones. Overall it seems clear that more research needs done on this topic before we can draw firm conclusions either way regarding veganism’s effect on one’s likelihood to develop kidney stones!