Climate change could spark a rise in KIDNEY STONES: Higher temperatures caused by greenhouse gases will lead to an increase in cases of the painful condition, experts claim

  • Computer modelling suggests climate change will cost the healthcare system 
  • Scientists claim hot days will likely result in greater water losses through sweat
  • It is well-known the painful condition is exacerbated by heat and dehydration

Climate change will lead to an increase in kidney stones due to more sweating and dehydration, a new study says. 

More hot days in the future will likely due to greater water losses through sweat, resulting in more concentrated urine and increased formation of kidney stones, researchers in Pennsylvania claim.

Kidney stones are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside your kidneys. 

They form when your urine contains more crystal-forming substances – such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid – than the fluid in your urine can dilute. 

Previous research has already shown that high ambient temperatures increase the risk of developing these kidney stones. 

Not drinking enough water contributes to their formation because more water in the kidneys helps prevent stone-forming crystals from sticking together. 

Higher temperatures are therefore more likely to cause dehydration, which in turn leads to the painful condition, which can often require surgery. 

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Rising temperatures due to climate change will lead to an increase in cases of kidney stones over the next seven decades, even if measures are put in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study by researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (stock image)

KIDNEY STONE FORMATION 

Kidney stones are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside your kidneys. 

They form when your urine contains more crystal-forming substances – such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid – than the fluid in your urine can dilute. 

At the same time, your urine may lack substances that prevent crystals from sticking together, creating an ideal environment for kidney stones to form.

The new study was conducted by researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in Pennsylvania, led by urologist Dr Gregory E. Tasian. 

‘It is impossible to predict with certainty how future policies will slow or hasten greenhouse gas emission and anthropogenic climate change, and to know exactly what future daily temperatures will be,’ Dr Tasian said. 

‘[But] our analysis suggests that a warming planet will likely cause an increased burden of kidney stone disease on healthcare systems.’ 

Kidney stone disease is a painful condition caused by hard deposits of minerals that develop in concentrated urine and cause pain when passing through the urinary tract. 

The incidence of the condition has increased in the last 20 years, particularly among women and adolescents. 

In the US, there is an increase in the incidence of kidney stones from North to South, and there is a rapid increase in risk of kidney stone presentations following hot days.

However, previous studies have not precisely projected how climate change will impact the burden of kidney stone disease in the future.

As greenhouse gas emissions blanket the Earth, they trap the sun’s heat. This leads to global warming and climate change. The world is now warming faster than at any point in recorded history (file image)

The unhealthy American diet could be linked to kidney stones. data released in 2018 suggested.

A study by the Mayo Clinic found an overall increase in the prevalence of kidney stones across three decades.

The rate of confirmed symptomatic stones increased more than 300 per cent in women and 100 percent in men from 1984 to 2012.

While the increase can in part be explained by improvements in medical imaging technology, experts said it could also be linked to the dietary factors driving increases in cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. 

To learn more, Dr Tasian and colleagues created a computer model to estimate the impact of heat on future kidney stone presentations in South Carolina. 

The researchers chose to use South Carolina as a model state because it lies within the ‘kidney stone belt’ – a region in the southeastern US with a higher incidence of kidney stone disease.    

The researchers first determined the relationship between historic daily statewide mean temperatures and kidney stone presentations in South Carolina from 1997 to 2014. 

The researchers used wet-bulb temperatures (WBT), a moist heat metric that accounts for both ambient heat and humidity, and a more accurate temperature metric for predicting kidney stones. 

They then used that data to forecast the heat-related number of kidney stones and associated costs to 2089 based on projected daily WBT under two climate change scenarios.

The researchers took into account the different climate eventualities as outlined in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s ‘RCP’ system.

The RCP trajectory ranges from RCP1.9 – where global warming is limited below 2.7°F (1.5°C) as per the goal of the Paris Agreement – to the dreaded RCP8.5, where emissions continue to rise throughout the 21st century in a worst-case scenario.   

It’s well-known that not drinking enough water contributes to the formation of kidney stones, as more water in the kidneys helps prevent stone-forming crystals from sticking together. Pictured are kidney stones after ESWL intervention

Kidney stones form when your urine contains more crystal-forming substances – such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid – than the fluid in your urine can dilute. At the same time, your urine may lack substances that prevent crystals from sticking together, creating an ideal environment for kidney stones to form

SCIENTISTS PREDICT ‘CATASTROPHIC’ TEMPERATURE RISE 

The majority of climate scientists advising the COP26 summit in 2021 fear the world is on course to warm by a ‘catastrophic’ 5.4°F (3°C).

Nearly two thirds of scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) who responded to a survey said they expected the planet to warm by this much.

Just 4 per cent said they thought the world would meet the target of limiting warming to 2.7°F (1.5°C).

Read more: Majority of IPCC scientists predict ‘catastrophic’ temperature rise

‘Our analysis is a model to conceptualise how the burden of kidney stone disease is expected to progress with climate change, and also how mitigations to greenhouse gas emissions can offset some of this burden,’ said first author Jason Kaufman at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. 

The first climate change scenario the researchers used – RCP 4.5 – represents an ‘intermediate’ future, with shifts to lower-emissions sources of energy, the use of carbon capture technology, prices on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and an expansion of forest lands from the present day to 2100. 

The second scenario (the dreaded RCP 8.5) represents a future with mostly uninhibited greenhouse gas emissions. 

RCP 4.5 projects a 4.1°F (2.3°C) increase in mean temperature per five-year period from 2010-2014 to 2085-2089, while RCP 8.5 projects a 6.5°F (3.6°C) increase in the same time frame.

Using their model, the researchers found that by 2089, kidney stones due to heat would increase statewide by 2.2 per cent from baseline in the ‘intermediate’ future of RCP 4.5 and by 3.9 per cent in RCP 8.5.  

From 2025 to 2089, the total cost attributable to these excess kidney stones would be $56.6 million (£41.7 million) for RCP 4.5 and $99.4 million (£73.4 million) for RCP 8.5.

Higher future wet-bulb temperatures (WBT) are associated with RCP 8.5 compared to RCP 4.5, due to greater projected future greenhouse gas concentration, modelling shows

These figures are based on a baseline average cost per patient of more than $9,000 (£6,650), the researchers say,  

‘With climate change, we don’t often talk about the impact on human health, particularly when it comes to children, but a warming planet will have significant effects on human health,’ Dr Tasian said.

‘As pediatric researchers, we have a duty to explore the burden of climate change on human health, as the children of today will be living this reality in the future.’       

The study has been published today in Scientific Reports.

How YOU can reduce your risk of kidney stones with diet

1. Stay hydrated

Water dilutes the substances in urine that form stones. 

Nutritionists recommend drinking eight standard eight-ounce cups of water daily. 

Citrus beverages may also be beneficial because the citrate helps prevent stone formation.

2. Reduce salt intake

A high-sodium diet can trigger kidney stones because it increases the amount of calcium in your urine. 

The suggested daily limit for sodium intake is 2,300mg, or about one teaspoon.

3. Reduce animal proteins

Diets that are high in animal proteins such as poultry, red meat, seafood and eggs have increased levels of uric acid that could lead to kidney stones. 

High-protein diets also reduce citrate levels, the chemical in urine that helps prevent stones from forming.

4. Get enough calcium

Diets that are too low in oxygen can cause oxalate levels to rise. 

Oxalate is a key component one of the most common types of kidney stones. 

Ideally calcium should come from foods such as milk, almonds, broccoli and oranges. 

5. Avoid foods associated with stones 

Foods that are high in oxalate, such as nuts, chocolates, spinach, beets and some teas could increase risk of developing stones

6. Listen to your doctor

Based on your personal and family history of stones, your doctor will have different dietary recommendations 

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