Kidney Disease And Weight

What is kidney disease?

The kidney is the organ responsible for filtering the blood and other fluids in order to remove the waste product for excretion.  When the organ fails to perform this function, there is an accumulation of waste which may lead to kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the gradual loss in kidney function, which can progress to kidney failure.. When the kidney fails, it can no longer perform its function as an organ of blood filtration and waste removal, hence, occasional dialysis to remove waste is done to keep the patient alive. In some cases, kidney transplants are necessary to replace the failed kidney and  restore the kidney function.

Symptoms of kidney disease


Tiredness or exhaustion is always one of the major signs of kidney disease. This is a result of a decrease in the oxygen distribution to the brain and other vital organs of the body. The kidney is responsible for the production of an important hormone called erythropoietin. Erythropoietin (EPO) is responsible for the production of red blood cells which transports oxygen to all the parts of the body. The oxygen distribution is affected following the decrease in the production of the red blood cells. Hypoxia (low oxygen levels) can affect the organs and persistent hypoxia can even lead to organ damage depending on the cell type, metabolic demand, and adaptation to hypoxia. Oxygen is an important element for metabolism and the subsequent production of energy.

The hemoglobin is the component of the red blood cell where oxygen binds. For a normal individual, a hemoglobin content of 200g/L of blood brings an oxygen binding of 150mL/L of blood1. A drop in these values can result in fatigue which comes from the reduction in the EPO production capacity of the kidney as a result of impaired function of a diseased kidney.

Irregular Body Temperatures

This is another symptom of kidney disease. Since the reduction in the production of EPO can result in Anemia, the patient seems to feel cold while others are warm because of the lower amount of red blood cells in circulation.

Shortness of Breath After Minor Physical Activities

This occurs as a result of kidney disease in two ways; first by the decrease in oxygen carrying capacity of the red blood cell. The person lacks adequate oxygen to carry out the normal body function. The cells would be starved of oxygen. Secondly, the accumulation of fluids in the lungs as a result of decreased removal of excess fluid by impaired kidney can result in labored breathing.


This also occurs as  a result of the anemia as the body is not getting enough oxygen to carry out the normal cellular metabolism.

Impaired Thinking

Since the brain is deprived of enough oxygen as a result of anemia, the thinking capacity is drastically reduced.

Feeling Itchy

The waste product that builds up in the body can cause body irritation and severe itching.

Swelling of Face, Hands and Feet

Oedema is another symptom of kidney disease as the fluids gets accumulated in the body

Ammonia Breath, Nausea, Vomiting and Metal Taste

They occur as a result of building up waste in the body referred to as uremia.

Urination Changes

When the kidney function of making urine is impaired, urinating may become painful. The urine may contain blood and also becomes foamy

Can being overweight cause kidney disease?

With the increased prevalence of hypertension in the general population, it is said to be the second leading cause of End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD).2 The increased pressure on the glomerulus would later result in overlaboring of the organ. This can result in the damage of the organ, and hence, kidney function would be impaired. Diabetes is another cause of kidney damage. This can happen as a result of Diabetic nephropathy. Obesity is a risk factor for both diabetes and hypertension. Uncontrolled blood pressure and diabetes can result in CKD.

Obesity-related glomerulopathy

It is an example of kidney problems directly related to obesity. Adaptive focal segmental Glomerulosclerosis and glomerular hypertrophy are the physiopathological terms of this condition.3 As the glomerular filtration rate, renal plasma flow, and sodium reabsorption increases as a result of obesity, the glomerulus responds by increasing in size as well. 

What is glomerulopathy?

Glomeruli is a network of small blood vessels that are located at the beginning of the nephron which is the smallest functional unit of the kidney. Glomerulopathy is a set of disease or injury of the glomerulus which affects its ability to perform the function of blood filtration. It is the leading cause of CKD.

How can obesity cause glomerulopathy?

Obesity is not just a state of abnormally increased adipose tissue but also associated with increased release of biologically active adipokines and cytokines which invariably decreases insulin sensitivity.4 This results in inflammation of the glomerulus and hence the kidney struggles to filter the blood to make urine. When this happens, there is increased size of the glomerulus and consequently a loss in kidney function with time.

What can you do to decrease your risk of kidney disease?

To reduce the risk of kidney disease, make sure that your blood pressure is always under control. Maintain a normal body weight and body mass index (BMI) by eating healthily and constantly exercising.

Lifestyle modifications like quitting alcohol and smoking, alongside preventing sedentary lifestyle are also important to maintain blood sugar level and blood pressure level. Adequate water and other fluids intake is also important to maintain the kidney function.


There is a direct correlation between body weight and kidney disease. Diabetes and hypertension are implicated in kidney disease. Obesity is one of the risk factors of both diabetes and high blood pressure. Therefore, for optimal kidney health, try as much as possible to control your body weight. Keep your blood pressure and blood sugar in check at all times.


  1. MacIntyre NR. Tissue Hypoxia: Implications for the Respiratory Clinician. Respiratory Care. 2014 Oct 1;59(10):1590–6.
  2. Bidani AK, Griffin KA. Pathophysiology of Hypertensive Renal Damage. Hypertension. 2004 Nov;44(5):595–601
  3. D’Agati VD, Chagnac A, de Vries APJ, Levi M, Porrini E, Herman-Edelstein M, et al. Obesity-related glomerulopathy: clinical and pathologic characteristics and pathogenesis. Nat Rev Nephrol. 2016 Aug;12(8):453–71
  4. Zorena K, Jachimowicz-Duda O, Ślęzak D, Robakowska M, Mrugacz M. Adipokines and Obesity. Potential Link to Metabolic Disorders and Chronic Complications. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 May 18;21(10):3570.

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