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Elderly patients with chronic kidney disease often consume too much dietary protein, new study results suggest. A thorough nutritional review and intervention in this population is warranted, investigators say.

Nephrologist-researchers analyzed healthcare data from 436 advanced CKD patients of varying ages who received treatment in the kidney care unit at Hospital Center (Le Mans), France. All patients were evaluated by dietitians to assess baseline protein intake from November 2017 through December 2020.

The more protein consumed, the harder sick kidneys must work to process it, causing them to wear out faster, according to the National Kidney Foundation. It is therefore recommended that patients with CKD reduce their dietary protein levels. But older adults in the study often had a higher-protein diet, the researchers found.

Based on standardized measurements, protein intake was higher than the recommended 0.8 g/kg/day across all age groups. The prevalence of patients on high-protein diets (defined as greater or equal to 1.2 g/kg/day) progressively decreased from about 70% in younger patients to about 35% of patients aged over 80, the authors wrote.

But fully 20% of patients aged 90 years and older who had been referred for nephrology care had a high protein intake at their first assessment. And at least 60% of the patients and the vast majority of patients aged 80 to 89 years old “were theoretically amenable to reducing protein intake to stabilize or slow the progression of CKD,” the authors reported. 

Notably, the likelihood of having a moderate malnutrition score was highest in the elderly patient groups, reaching 54% in those aged 90 years and older.

“These data differ from other reports that suggest that most individuals normalize or reduce their protein intake as they age,” the researchers wrote. Furthermore ”protein intake did not decrease across stages [of kidney disease] and was similar in patients at higher or lower comorbidity,” they reported.

Full findings were published in the journal Nutrients.