A New Study Says High-Fat Dairy May Help Prevent Kidney Disease. Does It Really?

high fat dairy

Arx0nt / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • A new study found a correlation between high-fat dairy and a reduced risk of developing chronic kidney disease.
  • Current recommendations for people with late-stage kidney disease include limiting dairy intake.
  • More research is needed to understand why high-fat dairy may support kidney function in healthy individuals, but experts don't recommend dairy for patients who already have kidney damage.

TikTok’s viral butter board trend and reports of coffee shops returning to whole milk might signal a dairy comeback.

And a new study now claims that high-fat dairy consumption is associated with a lower risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD), even though current dietary guidelines for patients with late-stage kidney disease recommend limiting dairy consumption.

Although the findings suggested that high-fat dairy can support kidney health, it’s not applicable for people who have kidney damage, according to Alison Steiber, PhD, RDN, chief science officer at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a board member of the National Kidney Foundation.

“I think that the results of this study are very interesting. They have a good sample size, they did some robust statistical analyses. The question is: Why is the high-fat dairy protective?” Steiber told Verywell.

People with late-stage kidney disease are advised to limit consuming dairy products, because their kidneys may be unable to filter out the rich protein and phosphorus content from dairy. These minerals can build up over time, leading to more health complications.

However, the researchers of the study said that dairy products might have different effects on the kidney because of their nutrient profile. In addition to protein, dairy also offers calcium, bioactive peptides, potassium, magnesium, and medium-chain fatty acids—which might support kidney function in healthy individuals.

Kidney-friendly Diet Isn't That Straightforward

Creating a kidney-friendly eating plan can be overwhelming, especially if the patient has to manage other conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure.

The ultimate goal of a kidney-friendly eating plan is to slow down organ damage. Experts say that people in the early stages of CKD may follow the standard dietary guidelines, which recommend three cups of dairy per day.

Once the disease progresses to the later stages, however, individuals with reduced kidney function should start limiting their intake of mineral-rich foods, such as dairy. They should also reduce their intake of salt and phosphorous, both of which are prevalent in packaged foods.

Following a strict kidney-friendly diet can also be especially challenging for people facing food insecurity, Steiber said.

“This is an incredibly difficult thing to manage when your goal is to have food and you don’t have a lot of resources to buy fresh fruits and vegetables or make from scratch at home,” she said.

Can Dairy Prevent Kidney Disease?

Many factors can contribute to kidney disease, and as many as one in three U.S adults are at risk.Increasing dairy consumption alone may not prevent this chronic illness. Current recommendations to reduce the risk of kidney disease include being active, not smoking, eating fruits and vegetables, managing stress, and getting regular check-ups.

People with diabetes and high blood pressure are at a greater risk of developing CKD, so managing these conditions may also help slow the progression of CKD. Certain demographic groups are at higher risk than others, including people 65 and older and those with a family history of kidney failure.

Where someone lives and how much pollution they are exposed to can also affect their risk of developing kidney disease, even if they follow the appropriate dietary recommendations, according to Jeanette Andrade, PhD, RDN, LDN, FAND, an assistant professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Florida.

Another major challenge with CKD is that people don’t often show symptoms in the early stages. If people don’t realize they have some kidney damage, they won’t be taking the necessary steps to slow the progression of the disease.

“Everyone should live the best lifestyle they can and hopefully with preventative care,” Andrade said. “But at the same time how much can you do if you don’t know?”

What This Means For You

A new study found a link between high-fat dairy and reduced risk of kidney disease. However, people with late-stage kidney disease are advised to limit dairy intake because of reduced kidney function.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Gaeini Z, Bahadoran Z, Mirmiran P, Feyzi Z, Azizi F. High-fat dairy products may decrease the risk of chronic kidney disease incidence: a long-term prospective cohort studyJ Ren Nutr. Published online October 18, 2022. doi:10.1053/j.jrn.2022.10.003

  2. National Kidney Foundation. Dairy and our kidneys.

  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. 

  4. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Eating right for chronic kidney disease.

  5. American Kidney Fund. Can I get help to create a kidney-friendly eating plan that is right for me?

  6. National Kidney Foundation. Kidney disease: the basics.

  7. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Preventing chronic kidney disease.

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic kidney disease in the United States, 2021.