Scientists reveal gender differences in age-related loss of kidney function

August 18, 2022  14:31

Although more women than men suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD), men are more likely to develop kidney failure. In a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, researchers found that middle-aged women had lower kidney function than men. At the same time, the subsequent rate of decline in kidney function during aging was more dramatic in men. 

Most people lose part of their kidney function as they age, and as populations around the world age, more people develop chronic kidney disease. The Global Burden of Disease study predicts that by 2040, chronic kidney disease will be the fifth most common cause of several years of life lost.

Kidney-related biological differences between women and men and sex differences in lifestyle risk factors have been proposed as potential explanations for the seeming contradiction that women have less kidney function than men but a lower incidence of kidney failure. To get to the bottom of this, Thoralf Melsom, MD, and colleagues (University Hospital of Northern Norway and UiT, Arctic University of Norway) recruited 1,837 adults (53% women, aged 50-62 years) in Northern Europe who represented the general population and did not have diabetes, chronic kidney disease or cardiovascular disease. 

The study showed that between 2007 and 2009, women had lower kidney function than men. Renal function then declined linearly in women and faster in men at older ages. People without underlying chronic diseases and risk factors for chronic kidney disease had better kidney function, but health status did not explain the sex differences in decreased kidney function.

The study is the first to replicate accurate measurements of kidney function in relatively healthy women and men during aging. In doing so, they are providing important insights into age-related loss of kidney function and sex differences in the prevalence of chronic kidney disease, Dr. Melsom said.

Follow Medicine on Facebook and Twitter

  • Video
  • Event calendar
  • Archive