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Study links soda with kidney disease

If you have a penchant for drinking sugary sodas, you might be raising your risk for kidney disease, new research suggests.

Employees at a university in Japan who consumed more than two sodas a day were more likely to have protein in their urine when compared to those who had fewer or no sodas on a daily basis. Protein in the urine is considered an early, but reversible, marker of kidney damage.

The new study showed an association between drinking soda and an increased risk of kidney damage, but it didn't necessarily prove that soda is the culprit.

The study included more than 12,000 university employees who underwent their annual checkups at their health center. As part of the exam, their urine was tested for evidence of protein.

Nearly 11 percent of employees who said they drank two or more soft drinks per day had protein in their urine during three years of follow-up. In contrast, 8.4 percent of those who did not drink any soda and roughly 9 percent of those who drank about one can a day tested positive for protein in their urine.

A related study in rats found that moderate consumption of a sugar called fructose increases the kidney's sensitivity to a protein that regulates salt balance. According to the Case Western Reserve University researchers, this leads to increased salt reabsorption by cells in the kidneys, which might explain why soda consumption has been linked to diabetes, obesity, kidney failure and high blood pressure.

Experts said the new findings add to a growing body of evidence on the unhealthy side effects of drinking too much soda.

"There is no safe amount of soda," said Dr. Anil Agarwal, a kidney specialist at Ohio State University. "If you look at the recommended amounts of sugar we can safely consume every day, one can of soda exceeds the maximum level."