Diners should cut down on flavorings such as soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili paste and shacha sauce (沙茶醬) since the condiments used in restaurants often have a high sodium content, which can lead to kidney damage, nephrologists from the Cathay General Hospital said yesterday at a press event promoting kidney health.
Feng Hsiang-hua (馮祥華), head of the hospital’s renal department, said diets rich in salt and fat can raise blood pressure, increase the concentration of lipids in the blood and worsen diabetes, while high intakes of sodium, potassium, magnesium and other metals are linked to reduced kidney function.
“Food at restaurants are often too richly flavored and don’t come with nutrition fact sheets, so people don’t know what they have eaten,” Feng added. “We are not suggesting to do away with seasoning all together. It is okay to eat rich-flavored food every now and then, but don’t make it a habit.”
A recent study published by Business Weekly found 80 percent of the nation’s dialysis patients frequently eat out and Feng said a similar proportion is found among patients with chronic kidney disease being treated at the hospital, among whom 45 percent have diabetes.
Currently, there are 70,000 patients on dialysis in Taiwan. The good news is that the number of new dialysis patients has steadily decreased since 2007, Feng said.
“Still, there are between 5,000 and 6,000 new patients receiving dialysis each year,” Feng added.
Every year, the Bureau of National Health Insurance (NHI) spends more than NT$30 billion (US$1 billion) on hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis, treatments for kidney failure, Feng said, with the yearly medical costs for one patient reaching NT$580,000 or more.
Feng said statistics compiled by the NHI show 50 percent of the nation’s dialysis patients are able to work normally, while 90 percent of patients can live independently.
Sixty-five-year-old Cheng Li-chen (鄭麗真), who has been on dialysis for 10 years, said renal failure did not necessarily compromise quality of life as long as one received proper medical care and followed a controlled diet.
“When I was young, there was no health information available,” Cheng said. “As an athlete, I sweated a lot, but drank little water. I also ate instant noodles regularly, and added lots of flavorings to my meals.”
Feng said a balanced diet and regular exercise are key to preventing renal damage, adding that the current recommendation is to consume less than 5g of table salt a day. Drinking water also helps, the physician added.
To people at high risk of developing renal failure, Feng offers the “3-3-3” rules, which he said were easy to remember.
“People with high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high blood lipids should have blood pressure checked and take blood and urine tests every three months,” he said.