Is Pea Protein Powder Bad For Your Kidneys?
Written by Ben Carlisle
Last updated on: Sep 18, 2022
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No, pea protein powder is not bad for your kidneys if dosage recommendations are followed, and you have no underlining kidney issues. Although pea protein is not bad for your kidneys, some concerns were raised over the negative effect other protein powders can have on kidney function.
These concerns were regarding the over-consumption of protein and a possible link to chronic kidney disease (CKD). However, opinion is divided as to whether this is caused by solely animal proteins. Or if plant-based proteins can also place you at risk (1, 2).
There is no evidence to suggest individuals who have no underlining health issues will have any problems with kidney health when consuming pea protein powder. There is also some scientific evidence to suggest pea protein may benefit those who have low kidney function. This is due to pea protein having high levels of the amino acid arginine. Arginine has been shown to lower blood pressure (3).
What is Pea Protein?
Pea protein is a plant based protein which contains all of the nine essential amino acids. When used as a protein supplement, it is a great way to increase your daily protein intake. And can help you reach a variety of goals, including athletic performance, muscle growth and weight loss (4).
As the name suggests pea protein powders are made from peas. It is derived from yellow peas. In recent years vegan protein powders have grown in popularity. Pea protein powder is a good alternative to whey protein. And studies have found the results of these two powders to be comparable (13). Additionally, a study found pea protein powder can help suppress cravings and help with weight loss (5). Pea protein powder is easy to add into your diet. It is normally taken as a shake, but also can be added to food.
What is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?
CKD, describes the long term loss of kidney function (6). It is a common, condition in the UK which often coexists with other conditions (such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes) (2). It is reported 2% of the total NHS budget is spent on CKD therapy (7). One of the most concerning things about CKD is, it remains largely undetected due to most patients being asymptomatic (5).
Individuals who have CKD often suffer cardiovascular complications and high blood pressure. This is where new research is showing pea protein can be useful, due to its ability to decrease high blood pressure. A recent study found consuming 3 grams of pea protein hydrolysate a day for three weeks, resulted in reduced blood pressure (3).
How Does Protein Effect The Kidneys?
In individuals with chronic kidney disease, high-protein diets have been shown to accelerate renal deterioration (2). However, protein still remains a very important part of the diet because of how vital it is in supporting bodily growth and repair. Therefore, those with previous kidney problems will want to seek professional medical advice to ensure they are consuming enough protein. This is in order to not become malnourished, whilst not over consuming it and placing their kidneys at risk of further deterioration.
Another concern is some studies have linked a high protein diet to increasing the levels of acid in the blood. High acid levels can increase the chances of kidney stones developing (8).
Animal protein has been shown to boost urinary excretion of oxalate, a compound which combines with calcium and other compounds to form kidney stones (8). Foods high in protein but low in carbohydrates can increase the risk of kidney stones, whilst also reducing the body’s capacity to absorb calcium (11).
Is Pea Protein Bad For Kidneys?
The 'National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases' advise individuals who have CKD or are susceptible to kidney stones to limit the amount of animal proteins they consume in their diet (9). Interestingly, they go on to recommend plant proteins as an easy fix for those wanting to take a protein powder. Pea protein therefore, is an effective way for individuals with kidney conditions to get the required protein intake.
Studies into the health benefits of pea protein powders show they are able to aid the body in flushing away any excess uric acid the body has stored. This suggests pea protein is beneficial for those who have had or are susceptible to kidney stones. The reason for this is too much uric acid can cause kidney stones to develop (9). Another common cause of kidney stones, is the body storing an excess of oxalate. Pea protein powder is low in oxalate but high in protein, making it a fantastic option for those who suffer with kidney stones.
As previously mentioned, researchers have discovered that pea protein powder is able to lower blood pressure. Some researchers believe this demonstrates pea protein could have potential for treating chronic kidney disease (9). However, more research is needed as current studies have only been conducted on animals.
Additional Health Benefits Of Pea Protein Powder
Pea protein powders are hypoallergenic and free from the 8 main types of allergens (6). This makes this plant protein supplement a great choice for anyone with food sensitivities. Not only is this plant protein easy for the stomach to digest, it is also rich in iron. Lots of people suffer from low levels of iron so taking pea protein is an easy way to increase your iron intake. The reference nutrient intake (RNI) for iron is 8.7 mg per day for men and postmenopausal women, and 14.8 mg per day for premenopausal women. Studies have shown that nearly 50% of women in the UK do not meet this daily recommendation (10). A serving of the best pea protein powder on the market contains 8.1mg of iron. Such a high iron count makes it obvious why this supplement is a good choice for those who have an iron deficiency. Further research into pea protein has found it helps to lower the concentration of total cholesterol and fat production (11).
Pea protein powder contains all of the nine essential branched chain amino acids. As mentioned, it contains arginine, which helps circulation, heart health and also helps to lower blood pressure. It also contains high volumes of leucine, isoleucine and valine which play critical roles in the regulation of energy homeostasis, increasing metabolism, maintaining gut health and increasing immunity from disease (12).
Summary On Pea Protein And Kidney Health
The evidence shows pea protein is not bad for the kidneys of healthy individuals. Whilst there is still more research needed, studies have shown this protein has properties which promote kidney health. This is due to the fact, it lowers blood pressure. This helps as cardiovascular complications are the highest cause of death in those suffering from CKD (2). Additionally, pea protein powder has been shown to flush away excess uric acid which causes kidney stones.
There are many other benefits of taking pea protein powder which include: it is hypoallergenic, plant-based, a complete protein and has several nutritional and health benefits. These benefits include, being rich in iron, reducing fat production, lowering cholesterol and containing high levels of the amino acids’ leucine, isoleucine and valine.