Fad diets and their effect on urinary stone formation
The influence of unhealthy dietary habits on urinary stone formation has been widely recognized in literature. Dietary advice is indeed the cornerstone prescription for prevention of nephrolithiasis as well. However, only a small amount of medical literature has addressed the influence of popular or fad diets, often self-prescribed for the management of obesity and overweight or for cultural beliefs, on the risk of kidney stones. Thereby in this paper we analyze the current knowledge on the effects of some popular diets on overall lithogenic risk. High-protein diets, like Dukan diet, raise some concerns, since animal proteins are able to increase urinary calcium and to decrease urinary citrate excretion, thus leading to a high overall lithogenic risk. Low-carbohydrate diets, like Atkins diet or zone diet, may have a protective role against kidney stone formation, but there are also evidences stating that this dietary approach may rise calciuria and decrease citraturia, since it is generally associated to a relatively high intake of animal proteins. Vegan diet can be harmful for urinary stone disease, especially for the risk of hyperuricemia and micronutrient deficiencies, even if only few studies have addressed this specific matter. On the other side, the benefits of a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet on kidney stone prevention have been largely emphasized, provided that the intake of calcium and oxalate is balanced. Traditional Mediterranean diet should exert a protective effect on nephrolithiasis as well, even if specific studies have not been carried out yet. High phytate and antioxidant content of this diet have however demonstrated to be beneficial in preventing the formation of new or recurrent calculi. Anyway, at the current state of knowledge, the most effective dietary approach to prevent kidney stone disease is a mild animal protein restriction, a balanced intake of carbohydrates and fats and a high intake of fruit and vegetables. Other fundamental aspects, which are often neglected in fad diets, are a normal intake of milk and dairy products and salt restriction. All these nutritional aspects should be greatly taken into account when patients who are willing to undergo fad or commercial diets ask for dietary advice.