Study: Global Warming May Increase Kidney Stones

See comments by John Cartmell, MS, at end of article.

By Dan Vergano; USA Today;
Copyright 2008 The Seattle Times Company

Global warming could do more than hurt polar bears: It could force a rise in kidney stones, scientists warned Monday.

"We see a relationship between kidney stones and temperatures everywhere," says study co-author Margaret Pearle of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. "Even in places with air conditioning, warmer temperatures mean more stones.

Kidney stones result from salts crystallizing in the kidneys, often triggered by dehydration, causing famously painful blockages. Warm Southeastern states get 50 percent more cases than Northeastern states. The new research says global warming will drive this kidney-stone "belt" north and cause at least 1.6 million new cases by 2050.

The U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned last year that industrial emissions of greenhouse gases very likely would raise average global temperatures 3 to 7 degrees this century. That would increase the risks for heat stroke and expand tropical diseases such as malaria.

The kidney-stone finding, reported Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, combines the panel's projections of higher U.S. temperatures with Medicare and Veterans Administration health records to estimate how many extra U.S. kidney-stone cases will result.

John Cartmell comments:

Global warming seems to be blamed for everything these days, now, even kidney stones. However, this concern may not be that far fetched. Warm temperatures increase water intake, urination and sweating, all of which can lead to nutrient depletion particularly of electrolytes like sodium, potassium and magnesium. Magnesium, already low in many American diets, is known to be depleted by sweating. Magnesium deficiency, among other things, is known to be associated with kidney stone formation.. So increased sweating from warmer weather may increase the risk of magnesium deficiency and kidney stones especially in populations that are already at high risk.

According to the Natural Health Information Centre:

  • Magnesium is an essential nutrient which activates over 300 enzymes in the body. It is especially important for carbohydrates and fat metabolism. It helps balance calcium, sodium and potassium metabolism, relaxes muscles, promotes normal functions of nerve and hormone function, and helps prevent muscle spasms, kidney stones, and possibly diabetes.
  • Magnesium is depleted by high consumption of refined carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar and white rice), alcohol, high calcium intake (high consumption of dairy products), certain medications, and by excess sweating.  
  • Highest food sources of magnesium are nuts, whole grains, green vegetables (especially cooked) and chocolate.
  • Magnesium deficiency signs include muscle twitches, muscle and menstrual cramps, PMS, sugar cravings, fatigue, heart arrythmias, anxiety, anorexia, anemia, hypoglycemia, childhood hyperactivity, high blood pressure, poor circulation and kidney stones.

Significant changes in climate have always caused widespread impact on the planet and its inhabitants. Climate changes are normal and cyclic and have occurred periodically throughout history (see PBS article). According to a report of the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change, we may actually be moving into a mini ice age that could last up to a hundred years. If this is the case, the greater concern may be adequate world food production.

John W. Cartmell, MS 

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