Which country has one of the world’s highest rates of chronic kidney disease? The answer may surprise you. A recent study published in the October 5th edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight explored why Japan is unfortunately saddled with such a significant amount of new kidney disease cases each year. An estimated 13 million Japanese citizens were suffering from Chronic Kidney Disease (or CKD) as of 2008 according to the Japanese Society of Nephrology. These numbers have since been steadily increasing, with as many as 2,365 per million Japanese people suffering from end-stage renal disease according to the United States Renal Data System 2014 Annual Data Report.
The reason behind this startling statistic stems from the typically more petite frames of native Japanese people. This smaller body size subsequently means smaller kidneys and lower nephron counts. Nephrons are the key kidney components responsible for sodium and water regulation and filtration of wastes. When these nephrons are found less frequently, the kidney has to work twice as hard to compensate. To put it in perspective, an average kidney contains approximately 1 million nephrons, while the lowest count among the Japanese people involved in this study was about 270,000.
Researchers heading the study cited an increasing number of lower birth weights among Japanese newborns along with excessive salt intake as being some of the more worrisome factors influencing the spike in CKD numbers. Since these genetic factors are beyond control, the researchers focused on providing preventative tips to help mitigate CKD risk as much as possible, despite the lower nephron counts. Limiting sodium, getting more exercise, avoiding obesity and regularly checking kidney function during routine physicals can go a long way in keeping CKD at bay.
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