Alcohol and Chronic Kidney Disease (Review of the Evidence)

Is there a connection between drinking alcohol and chronic kidney disease? This is an important question. For example, 37 million people in the U.S. have chronic kidney disease. Also, many millions more are at risk. And most people in the country drink alcohol.


I.   Risk

II.  Symptoms

III. Study

IV.  Resources

I. Risk 

These are risk factors for developing the disease.

    • Abnormal kidney 
    • Being African-American, Native American or Asian-American
    • Diabetes
    • Family history of kidney disease
    • Heart and blood vessel disease
    • High blood pressure
    • Obesity
    • Older age 
    • Smoking 

II. Symptoms

Symptoms of kidney disease may include:  

Research generally finds that that the health benefits of drinking doesn’t depend on the form of alcohol. That is, beer, wine, and spirits (liquor) tend to have the same health benefits.

    • Changes in urine volume 
    • Chest pain 
    • Decreased mental sharpness
    • Difficulty controlling high blood pressure 
    • Fatigue and weakness
    • Itching that continues
    • Loss of appetite
    • Muscle twitches or cramps
    • Nausea
    • Shortness of breath
    • Sleep problems
    • Swelling of feet and ankles
    • Vomiting

III. Study

alcohol and chronic kidneyResearchers studied any connection between alcohol and chronic kidney disease. To do so, they analyzed 15 cohort studies. In total, they included 268,723 participants. During the studies, 31,766 people developed chronic kidney disease.

Researchers grouped people by alcohol consumption. Those who drank less than about one drink daily were low drinkers. People who drank one to two drinks daily were moderate drinkers. Those who drank over two drinks daily were high consumers.

The researchers compared these groups to non‐ or occasional drinkers. Low drinkers had a 12% lower risk of developing chronic kidney disease. For moderate drinkers the risk was 24% lower. And for high consumers it was 21% lower.

IV. Resources: Alcohol and Chronic Kidney Disease

The Study

Li, D., et al. Alcohol drinking and the risk of chronic kidney damage. Alco Clin Exp Re, 2019, 43: 1360-1372.

Web Pages

Chronic Kidney Disease Risk Reduced by Drinking Alcohol.

Drinking Alcohol Reduces Kidney Cancer Risk.


NIH. Chronic Kidney Disease (CDK) and Diet. Bethesda, MD: NIH, 2015.

____. Chronic Kidney Disease: a Family Affair. Bethesda, MD: NIH, 2004.

____. Chronic Kidney Disease: What Does It Mean for Me? Bethesda, MD: NIH. 2010.


Metcalfe, W. How does early CKD progress? Neph Dial Trans, 2007, 22 (suppl 9): ix26-ix30.

Orlando, L., et al.  The CKD model. BMC Med Info Decis Mak, 2011, 11:41

Quigley, R. Chronic kidney disease. Int J Ped., 2012, 2012, Art ID  943904.

Sato, K.  Drinking pattern and risk of chronic kidney disease. Am J Neph, 2014, 40(6), 516-522.