Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, found that people who drank at least one cup of coffee per day were less likely to develop acute kidney injury (AKI) than those who did not drink it. The study, published earlier this year in the journal Kidney International Reports, involved 4,207 US adults aged 45 to 64 who each drank varying amounts of coffee.
Researchers found that those who drank coffee daily were 15 percent less likely to develop AKI than those who did not. Those who drink two or three cups of coffee per day are equal less The likelihood of experiencing AKI, thanks to a nearly 23 percent reduction. After adjusting for multiple variables such as age, sex, race, education, physical activity, smoking, alcohol intake, diet, blood pressure, diabetes status, use of antihypertensive agents, and body mass index, the results were essentially the same.
More research is needed to determine exactly why coffee is so beneficial for the kidneys, but researchers (John Hopkins and beyond) have a few theories. Caffeine affects kidney function in several ways, such as sodium excretion, renal oxygen delivery, and blood pressure regulation. These are considered important factors in the development of AKI, particularly in “high-risk populations with concurrent illness, injury, or comorbidity.” Coffee consumption is known to improve insulin sensitivity, improve heart health and even reduce inflammation throughout the body. Together, these temporary biological “upgrades” have the potential to create an environment for increased renal success.
AKI, defined by Yale Medicine as an “episode of sudden kidney damage or failure,” often occurs in hospital settings. It sometimes occurs alongside chronic kidney disease, heart disease, severe dehydration, and diabetes, the last of which is associated with about 40 percent of recent U.S. AKI hospitalizations. Treatment, although sometimes as simple as changing medications, can sometimes eliminate life-threatening infections or short-term dialysis. It goes without saying that AKI is a scary condition, and almost any way to avoid it is a welcome one.
Meanwhile, despite adjusting for many demographic variables, the researchers acknowledge that much remains unknown about coffee being a protective factor against AKI. In the future, researchers want to see if other caffeinated beverages, such as tea or soda, have similar benefits for kidney health. They also want to investigate whether additions to coffee such as milk, half-and-half, or sweeteners affect the renal benefits of the beloved beverage. (In the meantime, I’ll keep adding oat milk and syrup to my coffee, thank you very much.)