In 2016, 47,000 individuals who initiated dialysis in the United States (~42% of all incident dialysis patients that year) had obesity, with a body mass index (BMI) of ? 30 kilograms per meters squared. Across the BMI spectrum, individuals with kidney disease commonly lose weight after initiating dialysis treatment. However, whereas body weight typically stabilizes after the first several months of dialysis among patients without obesity, those with obesity often continue to lose weight. Both people with and without obesity who are on dialysis may lose weight due to muscle wasting and malnutrition, and recent studies have identified weight loss as a risk factor for death among people on dialysis, independent of BMI. Yet, some of the weight loss observed among obese dialysis patients may also reflect deliberate attempts to improve health, mobility, or access to kidney transplantation. Currently, there are no guidelines to help clinicians to differentiate between healthy and high-risk weight loss among people with obesity on dialysis. Further, typical obesity management paradigms are not easily transferrable to obese people with end-stage kidney disease, given factors such as chronic malnutrition, inflammation, and sarcopenia in this population that may modify the risks and benefits of different weight loss strategies. Therefore, the overarching goal of this five-year research proposal is to define healthy and high-risk weight loss phenotypes among people with obesity who are on dialysis, and to provide clinically feasible tools to improve obesity management in the setting of end-stage kidney disease. We will accomplish this goal by conducting three distinct but interrelated studies. In the first study, we will qualitatively determine patient-prioritized endpoints of weight loss, in addition to patient, physician and other stakeholder perspectives on the key factors that differentiate healthy from high-risk weight loss on dialysis. In the second study, we will leverage a national dataset of 23,000 obese dialysis patients and apply constructs of high and low physiologic reserve to derive healthy and high-risk weight loss phenotypes. We will then develop a weight- loss risk calculator tool that predicts the risks of hospitalization and death that are associated with each weight loss phenotype, using dynamic predictive joint models and machine learning techniques. In the third study, we will enroll 250 obese dialysis patients in a prospective, longitudinal study across five regions in the United States to evaluate the association between nutritional, inflammatory, and hemodynamic biomarkers and measures of health trajectory that are not typically captured in registry data, such as sarcopenia, dynapenia, body composition, and patient-prioritized endpoints such as quality of life. In accomplishing its aims, this research will provide urgently needed knowledge and tools that will improve the medical management of tens of thousands of people with end-stage kidney disease and obesity, ensuring that clinicians will be better able to incorporate patient-prioritized outcomes into assessments of weight loss interventions, and recognize and mitigate the effects of high-risk weight loss.

Public Health Relevance

Although over 40,000 obese individuals with end-stage kidney disease initiate dialysis each year in the United States, there are no guidelines on optimal obesity management in the setting of dialysis care. Obese dialysis patients may lose weight due to chronic illness or due to intentional weight loss attempts, though it is difficult to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy weight loss in these patients. This proposal seeks to advance the science of obesity management in dialysis settings by providing new tools to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy weight loss trajectories among obese dialysis patients.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Kidney, Nutrition, Obesity and Diabetes Study Section (KNOD)
Program Officer
Chan, Kevin E
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Drexel University
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code