Kidney Disease Increases Risk of Diabetes, Study Shows

Source: Washington University of St. Louis

Summary: Diabetes increases the risk of kidney disease, a new study suggests the converse also is true: kidney dysfunction increases the risk of diabetes.

It is a well-known fact that diabetes increases the risk of a person’s kidney disease. However, researchers from the Washington University of St. Louis in a new study suggested that the converse also is true: kidney disease increases the risk of diabetes mellitus. They even reported that urea is likely the culprit of the 2-way relationship between kidney disease and diabetes. Urea, the nitrogenous waste is found in the blood by the breakdown of proteins in food. Normally, kidneys remove urea from the blood, but it gets accumulated, if the kidney function slows down. The study findings were published in the journal Kidney International.

Kidney dysfunction increases the risk of diabetes

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Elevated levels of urea raise the risk of diabetes by increasing insulin resistance and impaired insulin secretion. The research team evaluated records of 1.3 million adults without diabetes over a 5-year period. A simple blood test showed that 117,000 individuals without diabetes had elevated blood urea levels, indicating poor kidney function. Those with high urea levels had 23% higher risk of diabetes. In each year studied, the researchers documented new diabetes cases in 2,989 of every 100,000 people with low urea levels and 3,677 new diabetes cases among those with high urea levels. The findings are important because urea levels can be lowered through medication and even diet which allow for improved treatment and possible prevention of diabetes.

Asst. Prof. Ziyad Al Aly said, “The risk difference between high and low levels is 688 cases of diabetes per 100,000 people each year”, “This means that for every 100,000 people, there would be 688 more cases of diabetes each year in those with higher urea levels.”

More Information: Yan Xie et al, “Higher blood urea nitrogen is associated with increased risk of incident diabetes mellitus”, Kidney International (2017). DOI:

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