Added Sugar may be Linked to Increased Risk of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones, crystallized accumulations in the urinary system, can range from being symptom-free to causing significant discomfort. They are most often characterized by pain, blood in the urine, and nausea. Despite its increasing global prevalence—10% in men and 7% in women—not all cases are reported, as some individuals remain without symptoms.

The primary contributors to kidney stone formation are a blend of genetic and environmental factors. Individuals with a family history are at a heightened risk. Additionally, experts have identified dehydration, high-protein diets, excessive sodium and sugar intake, and obesity as significant risk factors.

Kidney stones
Kidney stones. Jakupica via Wikipedia. CC-Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

While the adverse health effects of added sugars in beverages and foods are well-documented, their specific role in kidney stone development remains under investigation. A study from the Affiliated Hospital of North Sichuan Medical College, recently published in Frontiers in Nutrition, sought to explore this potential connection.

This post may interest those with a higher polygenic risk score for kidney stones.

The Study

Using data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) spanning 2007 to 2018, the study examined information from over 28,000 individuals. Participants first disclosed any history of kidney stones. Subsequent dietary interviews assessed their intake of added sugars, encompassing varieties like brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, and others.

The central objective was to discern any correlation between the amount of added sugar consumed and the propensity to develop kidney stones.


After adjusting for variables such as age, gender, ethnicity, and lifestyle choices, a discernible pattern emerged. That is, participants with a higher proportion of their caloric intake from added sugar consumption were more likely to have kidney stones.

This trend was evident in both of the study’s classification methods:

1. When categorized by quartiles of sugar intake, those in the lowest quartile faced a notably lesser risk compared to individuals in the highest quartile.

2. Using standard dietary guidelines, participants consuming less than 5% of their daily caloric intake from added sugars had a lower incidence of kidney stones than those consuming 25% or more.

Soft drinks are high in added sugars. Photo by Food Photographer on Unsplash

It’s widely accepted in the medical community that diets high in added sugars can lead to conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. This research posits an additional concern by suggesting a potential link with the increasing prevalence of kidney stones.

However, the study is not without its limitations:

1. The chronological relationship between sugar consumption and kidney stone onset remains ambiguous.

2. Given the self-reported nature of the data, recall bias might affect the outcomes.

3. The research did not consider the varied compositions of the kidney stones.


Despite these constraints, this newfound association could be pivotal for physicians formulating preventive measures. The findings reinforce the importance of adhering to daily sugar intake guidelines, not just for general well-being, but also as a potential preventive measure against kidney stones. The authors advocate further research more closely examining the sequence of sugar consumption and kidney stone development to clarify this relationship.

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Yin S, Yang Z, Zhu P, Du Z, Yu X, Tang T, Borné Y. Association between added sugars and kidney stones in U.S. adults: data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2007-2018. Front Nutr. 2023 Aug 4;10:1226082. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2023.1226082. PMID: 37599678; PMCID: PMC10436224.

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