Protein and potassium intake and the resulting diet-dependent net acid load may affect kidney stone formation. It is not known whether protein type or net acid load is associated with risk of kidney stones.
We prospectively examined intakes of protein (dairy, nondairy animal, and vegetable), potassium, and animal protein-to-potassium ratio (an estimate of net acid load) and risk of incident kidney stones in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (n=42,919), the Nurses' Health Study I (n=60,128), and the Nurses' Health Study II (n=90,629). Multivariable models were adjusted for age, body mass index, diet, and other factors. We also analyzed cross-sectional associations with 24-hour urine (n=6129).
During 3,108,264 person-years of follow-up, there were 6308 incident kidney stones. Dairy protein was associated with lower risk in the Nurses' Health Study II (hazard ratio for highest versus lowest quintile, 0.84; 95% confidence interval, 0.73 to 0.96; P value for trend <0.01). The hazard ratios for nondairy animal protein were 1.15 (95% confidence interval, 0.97 to 1.36; P value for trend =0.04) in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and 1.20 (95% confidence interval, 0.99 to 1.46; P value for trend =0.06) in the Nurses' Health Study I. Potassium intake was associated with lower risk in all three cohorts (hazard ratios from 0.44 [95% confidence interval, 0.36 to 0.53] to 0.67 [95% confidence interval, 0.57 to 0.78]; P values for trend <0.001). Animal protein-to-potassium ratio was associated with higher risk (P value for trend =0.004), even after adjustment for animal protein and potassium. Higher dietary potassium was associated with higher urine citrate, pH, and volume (P values for trend <0.002).
Kidney stone risk may vary by protein type. Diets high in potassium or with a relative abundance of potassium compared with animal protein could represent a means of stone prevention.