Doctor links up with campaigning chef to help people with kidney disease

A doctor based at Southampton’s teaching hospitals has joined forces with campaigning chef Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurants to provide a meal option for people with kidney disease.

Dr Arvind Nagra, a consultant nephrologist at Southampton Children’s Hospital, and Stephanie Atkins, who has a child with kidney disease, approached Mr Oliver's head office to see if provision for people whose diet is affected by the condition could be improved.

People with kidney – renal – disease can have difficulty controlling levels of the mineral phosphate, which is used by the body to maintain healthy bones and nerve function and can be found in everything from cheese, fish and seeds, to beef, pork and soya foods.

The kidneys control the amount of phosphate absorbed and excreted from food but, in people with kidney disease or failure, the body cannot remove excess levels of the mineral which can result in damage to blood vessels.

“While almost all food outlets cater for nut allergies and provide gluten free choices, none – certainly to my knowledge – offer an option for people with kidney disease,” said Dr Nagra.

“Many kidney patients need to carefully manage their phosphate intake and, at present, their ability to do this is hampered by a lack of provision in restaurants.”

Mr Oliver, who led a prominent national campaign to improve school meals, founded his collection of Italian restaurants in 2008 and continues to tackle obesity – a growing cause of kidney disease – and promote the need for better food education through the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation.

After discussing their idea, Dr Nagra and her dietetic colleagues at Southampton Children’s Hospital worked with the chef’s dietitians and culinary experts to create a new low phosphate meal option which will be on the menu at Jamie’s Italian in Portsmouth this evening (Thursday) to coincide with World Kidney Day.

As a result of the Southampton partnership, clinicians and families from other children’s kidney units across the country, as well as adult patients from around the UK, will be holding events at some of Mr Oliver’s other Italian restaurants to mark the day.

Dr Nagra said: “We are extremely grateful to Jamie's nutrition and restaurant teams for leading on the development of a low phosphate option as it really will make things easier for many families.

“They have now set the benchmark for other restaurants to follow and, while they may not be able to follow suit immediately, they could take some immediate action by including phosphate levels in meals on their websites and menus.”

She added: “We are also delighted to have the support of someone who is working so hard to tackle obesity, especially as we know it increases the risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which are leading causes of kidney disease.”

Around three million people in the UK are affected by kidney disease, with up to a million undiagnosed.

In adults it is commonly caused by high blood pressure, which puts a strain on the small blood vessels in the organ, and diabetes, which leads to a build up of glucose that can damage filters in the kidney used for removing waste products.

Among children, kidney disease is associated more closely with abnormal kidney development and inherited genetic conditions.

For more information on Dr Nagra and her team’s World Kidney Day events, including the chance to bid for guest list tickets donated personally by Coldplay to see the band perform at Wembley Stadium in June, visit

Dr Nagra will be among 134 guests – including patients, families, clinicians and campaigners – who will celebrate the awareness day at Jamie’s Italian in Gunwharf Quays from 6.30pm this evening.

Posted on Thursday 10 March 2016