Kidney & Chocolate – Ask the Kidney Expert

Christmas, Chocolate and Green Teakidney-clinic


The holidays are a time for celebrating however some on the renal diet may be held back by the dietary restrictions. However some good news with regards to, yes that’s right, chocolate!

Chocolate is typically restricted on the renal diet as it is high is phosphorus however a new study released December 17 from the Clinical Journal of American Society of Nephrology looked at thye affect of high quality chocolate drink on the vasculature of hemodialysis patients. The study found that ingestion of a high quality chocolate drink per day protected the cells that lined the vessels! This is especially important in hemodialysis patients as hemodialysis produces certain chemicals (i.e. free radicals, e.g. hypochlorite molecule) that damage the vessels and is thought to be a main cause of cardiovascular disease in hemodialyios patients. This study reveals the importance of, not chocolate ingestion (unfortunately) but the inclusion of certain foods in the diet that contain the active ingredients that give the therapeutic affect of chocolate, namely flavonols/flavanols; especially catechin and epicatechin. Chocolate has also been shown to be advantageous for the aging brain, improve thinking power, support healthy blood pressure, which is very important as a study found that if the kidney function is low, then that can relate to poor brain health due to the retaionship between kdient function and cerebral blood flow.

O.K. so here’s the catch; most chocolate sold in stores is typically heavily processed and this processing can decrease the active ingredients i.e. the falvonols. So if your going to eat chocolate eat 70-85% cocoa containing chocolate, you don’t have to eat a lot all at once, eat small amounts every day e.g. 1/2-1oz per day its not as sweet but you get more therapeutic affect. If on the renal diet you can eat a bit at a time, if your phosphorus is high, you’ll need to skip the chocolate but fear not, other foods contain the active ingredients that chocolate has but are low in phosphorus, for example:

  • Green tea, Black tea, white tea, roobios
  • Berries of all kinds
  • Onions, broccoli, red cabbage.
  • Fresh apples (especially delicious), cherries, acai berries, purple grapes.
  • Herbs like turmeric, thyme, oregano, sage.

For those with oxalate issues careful of the high oxalate foods.
Try to remember that you  are allowed some phosphorus in your diet so choose wisely and if you want a bit of chocolate go ahead and have a little bite especially if its good quality and enjoy knowing that its helping your vessels, heart and brain.

Happy Holidays and Love your Kidneys !

Dr. Quinn  “The Kidney Guy”

1) Rammos, C., et al. MD. Vasculoprotective effects of dietary cocoa flavanols in hemodialysis patients: a double-blind, randomized, placebocontrolled trial.Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2015 Dec 17.

2) Farzaneh A. Sorond, MD, PhD, Shelley Hurwitz, PhD, David H. Salat, PhD, Douglas N. Greve, PhD and Naomi D.L. Fisher, MD. Neurovascular coupling, cerebral white matter integrity, and response to cocoa in older people. Neurology, Neurology. 2013 Sep 3; 81(10): 904–909.

3) Mastroiacovo D1, et al. Cocoa flavanol consumption improves cognitive function, blood pressure control, and metabolic profile in elderly subjects: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study–a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Mar;101(3):538-48.

4) Alonso-Alonso M1. Cocoa flavanols and cognition: regaining chocolate in old age?Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Mar;101(3):423-4.

5) Ried K., et al. Effect of cocoa on blood pressure.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Aug 15;8.

6) Sansone R1.,et al.  Cocoa flavanol intake improves endothelial function and Framingham Risk Score in healthy men and women: a randomised, controlled, double-masked trial: the Flaviola Heatlth Study.Br J Nutr. 2015 Oct;114(8):1246-55.

7) Sedaghat, S. et al. Kidney Function and Cerebral Blood Flow: The Rotterdam Study. J Am Soc Nephrol. Published online August 6, 2015.



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