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Sugary Drinks Recently Linked to Kidney Stones

June 10, 2013

BY: Michelle Filippini

In case there weren't already enough reasons to avoid sugar-laden drinks, researchers have just provided one more: a possible link to increased risk of kidney stones. HealthDay reports on evidence that sugary drinks relate to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Conditions like these in turn may contribute to kidney stones, the National Kidney Foundation warns.

The study described in HealthDay found that sugary sodas and fruit drinks, such as fruit punch, may lead to a higher incidence of kidney stones. For individuals who consumed one or more servings of such drinks daily, the risk for developing kidney stones increased by 23 percent compared to those who drank less than one serving per week. The study tracked more than 194,000 people over an eight-year period, surveying participants on their medical history, lifestyle and medication, and also collecting diet information every four years.

Just what is a kidney stone? The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse describes it as a solid piece of material that forms when normally found substances in the urine become highly concentrated. The majority of stones -- 95 percent -- are composed of calcium. A stone may either remain in the kidney or travel down the urinary tract. Because stones vary in size, a small one may pass on its own without causing much pain, whereas a large stone could get stuck in the urinary tract, blocking the flow of urine and resulting in severe pain or bleeding.

The pain has been described as worse than childbirth, according to CNN, and intense enough that a rock musician from the band Motley Crue had to walk off stage mid-show and check himself into a hospital. One woman commenting on that incident -- the mother of four children -- said she'd rather have four more children than one more kidney stone. The stones can result in flank pain on one side and also cause nausea and vomiting. Sometimes the pain can radiate down into the stomach and even into the genital area.

But not everyone with a kidney stone is (painfully) aware of it, said Dianne Sacco, director of Massachusetts General Hospital's Kidney Stone Program, in a CNN interview. Sacco emphasizes the importance of CAT scans in diagnostic imaging of kidney stones. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also notes that diagnostic medical sonographers may specialize as abdominal sonographers and may take X-ray images of organs such as kidneys. For stones that require treatment, Sacco describes shock wave lithotripsy, a noninvasive procedure, and different types of surgery.

In the hopes of avoiding surgery, can we give up sugary refreshments? What should thirsty individuals be reaching for, then? Most of what you drink should be water, the NKF recommends, and sugar intake should be limited. On hot days, people of all ages may need to drink more. And, for adults to stay properly hydrated, they need to be consuming six to eight fluid cups daily.

While staying hydrated and drinking plenty of fluids can help in the prevention of kidney stone formation, it's important to distinguish between "good" and "bad" fluids, especially as the NKF says kidney stones are becoming more common. Researchers suggest 20 percent of U.S. men and 10 percent of U.S. women are likely to deal with kidney stones at some point during their lives. Sacco also notes that adult males have had a higher risk, but with the increase of obesity in the general population, females -- as well as children -- are beginning to gain on men.

Who can warn the public about sweetened drinks? Dieticians, who specialize in this role, often have a bachelor's degree in nutrition or dietetics. Nurse educators, who typically are registered nurses, provide healthcare information and communicate with patients and their families about healthy lifestyles. Nurses sometimes work in environments such as schools where they can counsel students about nutrition, including the risks lurking in soda machines.

Sources:

CNN, "Kidney stones: 'Worse than childbirth,'" Elizabeth Landau, April 8, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/11/health/kidney-stones-explainer

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/diagnostic-medical-sonographers.htm

Dietitians and Nutritionists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm

HealthDay, "Sugary Sodas, Fruit Punches May Raise Kidney Stone Risk: Study," Mary Elizabeth Dallas, May 15, 2013, http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=676372

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC), "Kidney Stones in Adults," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, January 28, 2013, http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/KUDiseases/pubs/stonesadults/index.aspx

National Kidney Foundation, "NKF answers top 10 questions about kidney stones," http://www.kidney.org/news/ekidney/november10/Top10_November10.cfm

Registered Nurses, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm