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Ask the Dietitian: Is sugar bad for my kidneys?


I read that sugar is bad for my kidneys. Is that true?


Short answer is no and yes. In general, sugar does not damage the kidneys. When both your pancreas and kidneys are working well your body will use sugar for energy. Excess sugar is stored by your body to be used for energy in the future. In people with diabetes, excess sugar and high sugar intake can cause high blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar remains high, your kidneys can be affected causing damage to their blood vessels. When your blood sugar is above 180 gm/dL your kidneys will work to get rid of extra sugar in your urine. It’s important to monitor your blood sugar and your average blood sugar. Your provider will recommend laboratory tests like a hemoglobin A1C to monitor your blood sugar and medication to help you lower it if needed. What you eat is also important in managing your blood sugar and limiting the number of added sugars in your diet.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that everyone limit added sugars in the diet consuming no more than 10% of your total daily calories from added sugar. This comes to about 50 grams of sugar or less for people eating 2,000 calories per day. Other than providing energy and calories, there is no nutritional value in added sugars and added sugars can contribute to unintentional weight gain. Some research has found a link between high added sugar intake and heart disease, so the recommendations are for everyone to consume less. There are many different types of added sugars that are added to food to enhance its sweetness. Names listed in the ingredients on the food label include brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, sugar, sugars ending in “ose” like dextrose, and syrup. To help consumers make smart choices, added sugar is a category on the Nutrition Facts Label. The Nutrition Facts Label will list both grams of added sugar and % daily value.

Tip: use the % daily value column to quickly scan the Nutrition Facts Label to know if the food item is a high (20% or higher) or a low (5% of less) source of added sugar. For most people sugar itself will not harm the kidneys; however, consuming less added sugar is recommended for your overall health.

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