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The #1 Worst Drink for Your Kidneys, Say Dietitians

Skip this sugary drink to help your kidney health.
FACT CHECKED BY Samantha Boesch

Your kidneys play many important roles in the body, including removing waste products from the blood, balancing fluid and blood pressure, and eliminating drugs from the body. Kidney disease can be a life altering diagnosis, which is why it is important to live a lifestyle that supports the health of this essential organ.

While some may be genetically predisposed to kidney disease, lifestyle factors like exercise, diet, smoking, blood pressure levels, and diabetes can also increase one's risk for developing chronic kidney disease (CKD). Even the drinks you enjoy can have a significant impact on your kidney health.

With this in mind, it's important to know that soda, both diet and regular, is one of the worst drinks for your kidneys. Read on to learn more, then for more kidney-related health tips, check out 5 Worst Foods for Your Kidneys.

woman holding soda

Soda tops the list of worst drinks for your kidney health. While you likely know soda isn't the most nutritious drink, you may not have thought about how it impacts your kidneys in particular.

To start, the sugar content of a regular soda is one of the issues. According to a 2015 study, drinking more than 4 sugar-sweetened carbonated drinks per week was associated with an increased prevalence of chronic kidney disease. High sugar content in the blood can damage blood vessels in the kidneys, making high blood sugar and diabetes risk factors for developing CKD.

The concentrated sugar content in a soda can make blood sugar management more challenging, and should be limited for those with diabetes or existing kidney disease, and even individuals with a family history of kidney disease should watch their sugar intake and blood sugar levels closely.

7 Sodas With the Scariest Ingredients

Another ingredient found in regular and diet soda, and especially cola sodas, is phosphoric acid. Research indicates cola drinks containing this ingredient have been associated with urinary changes that promote kidney stones, which increase the risk of developing chronic kidney disease.

Current recommendations state those with kidney stones or kidney disease should avoid cola beverages. Even in those without existing kidney stone or disease, drinking two or more colas per day was associated with an increased risk of chronic kidney disease.

While phosphoric acid can be found in regular and diet cola drinks, the artificial sweeteners found in diet sodas seem to increase the risk of kidney disease as well. According to a 2011 study, drinking more than two servings of artificially sweetened soda per day was associated with a 2-fold increase in odds for kidney function decline in women.

While aspartame and saccharin were the primary artificial sweeteners used in diet sodas during the years in which these participants were assessed, researchers did not determine if there was a specific type of artificial sweetener associated with kidney decline noted in the study. Because of this, it is best to air on the side of caution and limit all diet sodas, no matter the artificial sweetener, in order to protect your kidney health.

Kelsey Hampton, MS, CSSD, RDN, LD
Kelsey is a Texas-based dietitian and professor who specializes in sports nutrition. Read more about Kelsey
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