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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Kidney Stone Belt

by Rusty Rains, 2006

See also: Iced Tea

"Growth of the U.S. “kidney stone belt” in response to projected climate change. Risk increases with time from red > orange > yellow. " From the National Academy of Sciences. The Kidney Stone Belt refers to the region in the southeastern United States where the rate of kidney stones, or kidney calculi, is excessive. North Carolina reportedly has the highest incidence of kidney stones in the nation; some research indicates that white males (the highest-risk group) have a 15 percent chance of developing kidney stones versus a much lower risk for the same group in other parts of the country. Sedentary white-collar workers are more likely to form stones than are active blue-collar laborers.

The reasons given for this high occurrence vary. In 1995 it was reported that the wide consumption of iced tea in North Carolina could be a contributing factor, because tea is loaded with calcium oxalate, which is a main ingredient in certain kinds of kidney stones. But more recent studies suggest that the consumption of tea actually reduces the risk of stone formation, in some cases by as much as 14 percent.

Another theory finds a correlation between the high incidence of kidney stone formation and the consumption of hard water. Because much of North Carolina remains rural, many people continue to use wells as their primary or only source of drinking water. The mineral content of water is thought to be a possible source of stone disease. According to some studies, excessive water hardness causes kidney stones to form and people with a history of stones should consider avoiding private wells. Still other studies suggest that water hardness has only a minor impact on stone formation. Some researchers believe that the high incidence of stones in North Carolina and in the South generally is coincidental and that the "kidney stone belt" is actually a myth.

Additional Resources:

PubMed Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine Kidney Stones: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001493/

"The Stone Belt Blue Ridge HealthCare urologist says iced tea may be to blame," by Anna Wilson, 2010, The Morganton News Herald. http://www2.morganton.com/news/2010/mar/17/stone-belt-ar-68937/.

Image Credit:

"Growth of the U.S. “kidney stone belt” in response to projected climate change. Risk increases with time from red > orange > yellow. " From the National Academy of Sciences. Available from http://www.pnas.org/content/105/28/9449/F4.expansion.html (accessed October 15, 2012).

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Comments

Comment: 

What's all the fuss about kidney stones any way. Citric acid melts them away. When you eat fish and chips squeeze the lemon wedge on your fish and then eat the lemon flesh.Eating citric acid foods( mostly fruit or juice ) regularly you will unlikely ever get KS's. Vinegar has a similar effect. Preferably in pickle form.Love them Dills. jimbob

Comment: 

BS on the citric acid from lemons magically dissolving them. I eat lemons as some eat oranges ,7 large lemons a week at least. Had KS bad enough to cause sepsis which lead to an induced coma in ICU over 30 days. Missed 3 months of work. Have had them before that incidence and since.

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Man, I wish I knew that 10 stones ago...

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Is it possible that microscopic sand particles found in NC’s Eastcoast city water supplies could be a contributing factor in the formation of kidney stones?

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Thank you JRW.

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From research that I have done, kidney stones in otherwise "healthy" individuals are highly linked to animal protein consumption. The medical profession has not yet bought into this conclusion but plenty of research supports it. All animal protein (e.g. fish, chicken, beef, other seafood and especially dairy such as milk and its derivatives) contain large amounts of the sulphur containing amino acids. When these amino acids get into a person's blood, they acidify it. The body tries to neutralize the acid by dissolving some of its own bone calcium. Since many of these folks are eating way too much protein at one time, their body tries to get rid of the excess since it can't be stored and probably doesn't need to be "burned" for energy at the moment. As a result, these neutralized acids have to be excreted through the kidneys. As a result, kidney stone formation takes place.

Comment: 

That made almost zero sense on many levels. Also it depends on what type Stone we are talking about.

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