In part two of Dr Lardinois’ interview for Diabetes in Control we learn more often overlooked points regarding albumin.
The Role of Albumin in Heart Disease
Steve Freed: I woke up with a nightmare and I said to myself (and it goes to what you’ve been saying) microalbumin in the urine can actually be an indicator for heart disease, diabetes, and kidney failure.
Dr. Lardinois: And congestive heart failure too.
Steve Freed: I was told by a doctor that 10% of the population has some form of kidney issues and that if we prevent one person from going on dialysis, that’s a quarter of a million dollars over their lifetime. Just one person. I said to myself. Well, wait a second, we have microalbumin tests right now. I looked into it and you can perform a microalbumin test with blood, you can also do a dip stick in your office. But there is no FDA approved test for home use to detect microalbumin. Now if you remember, we had colon cancer tests where you put a piece of feces in the mail, and we found all these people and we saved millions and millions of dollars.
Dr. Lardinois: I would say two things: one is, I would discontinue using the term microalbumin. Now the reason I say that is I’ve actually asked students or residents what microalbumin is, and do you know what they think it is? It’s a smaller molecule of albumin. It’s a small albumin molecule. There’s a small albumin and a big albumin. Well, there’s not! It’s just albumin, period.
Steve Freed: So I said to myself, let me investigate this. So I went out and I found overseas a test that’s like a pregnancy test. A plastic container, put two drops of urine in it. If the red line comes up, you’ve got “albumin” in the urine. Obviously if you’re lifting weights, you might have albumin in the urine. If you have a cold, you might have albumin in your urine. So I asked the doctor, he said you know I tried this about 20 years ago, and what they discovered was it was too costly. Well, I found a way to get this thing made for less than a dollar. It has to get FDA approved. My thought is you can send these out and I would send two, maybe even three tests out, and if one was positive, you do another one in a week and if that was positive, you can do another one. If you get two positives then you need to contact your physician and have them do further testing. Because you could be at risk. I know I can’t say that you’re diagnosed. All I can say is you’re at risk and more tests have to be done and you need to contact your physician. Send this out to the self-insured companies that have 10,000 employees, send it out with your tax refund, if the check is no good.
Dr. Lardinois: I’ll share with you, I’ve got a couple of very important things. You said something about nightmares though?
Steve Freed: Well I had a nightmare because of all these people I have to talk to, this doctor and I said a quarter of a million dollars.
Dr. Lardinois: You don’t have diabetes do you?
Steve Freed: No, it’s in my family.
Dr. Lardinois: Because what I tell you is that I tell people that a nightmare or a bad dream is a hypoglycemic reaction. When you said that, I used to do camps for kids and there were kids that would have a 400 blood sugar in the morning and everybody thought they didn’t take their insulin. They had too much insulin and they rebounded. Here’s the issue with albumin…. Albumin in the urine. What do they tell you your albumin in the urine should be? Less than 30. Where did that number come from?
Steve Freed: The albumin test is greater than 20.
Dr. Lardinois: That’s because you have to correct for grams of protein so it actually becomes 30. It’s 20 mg but when you correct for creatinine it’s actually 30. That number of 30 was generated by the nephrologists. What they showed was that if you had less than 30 mg of albumin in your urine, your chances of going onto end stage renal disease was zero, almost zero. If you had between 30 and 300, that’s where they came up with the term microalbumin. It really wasn’t microalbumin, it was just albumin in the 30 to 300 range. You had a small percentage of going into end stage renal disease. If you had more than 300 in your urine, I tell my patients, you better start learning the word nephrologist. Not endocrinologist, because you’re going to do that. But I can tell you, the true value, the goal for albumin in the urine is 7.5 in women and 4 in men.
Steve Freed: You say 4 and 7, what does that mean?
Dr. Lardinois: I’m saying instead of 30 it should be 7.5 for you [Joy], and 4 for you [Steve]. There are studies now, and I will show this data, that once your albumin in the urine is more than 5 mg per gram of creatinine, your mortality starts to go up. When you get to 30, you’ve already doubled your mortality. So you’re twice as likely to die if you have a 30 as a 5, but everybody says it’s normal because you’re less than 30. The other thing they don’t take into account, but I’ve learned from a couple nephrologists here, that they actually are addressing now is you [Steve] versus her, because you have a bigger muscle mass than she does. You’re going to have a seriously lower creatinine because it’s an albumin to creatinine ratio, because you have a bigger creatinine, your numbers actually are going to be lower. But when you correct it for lean body mass, your numbers should be lower, so yours should be 4 and hers is 7.5. But I’m going to do a whole hour on that.
Steve Freed: So what do you think of that? I’ve already got a lab, we’re working on it, we’re putting it together, we’re putting together a business plan to develop this and get it FDA approved.
Dr. Lardinois: I think it would be a great idea, but I’m hoping that the FDA and that societies will stop looking at 30 as the normal.
Steve Freed: Where can I get this information?
Dr. Lardinois: Which information?
Steve Freed: That 30 is not normal.
Dr. Lardinois: I can give you all the information you want. I can send you the talk I gave in Hawaii and it’s going to be similar in December, but obviously I’ve got some new information just in the last couple weeks. I always update my presentations.
Steve Freed: I’d like to transcribe it so I can hand it to the National Kidney Foundation.
Dr. Lardinois: I’ve been very adamant. I’ve not got anywhere with it. Even some of them say, what are you talking about, let’s do a physician paper. I said ok fine, but your blood pressure, lipids, continuous glucose monitoring. Why don’t you actually do one on albumin? In fact I even said I would be happy to even chair it, if you were willing to do it, because I think it’s something that’s really important. The problem with albumin right now, is we’ve never designed any good control studies, so all the data we have is observational. Observational studies, that’s the problem with nutrition. All of them are observational studies, and that’s been flawed. So that’s prevented us. Until the FDA will accept albumin as a legitimate marker, and say, ok, we must get below 7.5 in you, we must get below 4 in you, let’s see what happens? I’ll guarantee you, I’m from Nevada but I don’t spend money at the casinos, but I would [spend] some serious money on that. I’ll bet you, I’ll bet $25,000 that if you did a clinical study and you got it below 7.5 in women and 4 in men, you would save a lot of lives.
Steve Freed: That’s going to take time to show.
Dr. Lardinois: Exactly, but they’ve got studies where they’ve done it, but they didn’t want it. It wasn’t part of the end point. But they’ve got studies like Life study which shows normal albuminuria and the death rates up 200% with a “normal” albuminuria. I’ll be happy to send you that.
Diabetes in Control will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.
Claude K. Lardinois, M.D., FACP, FACE, MACN, is a professor of medicine at the University of Nevada School of Medicine and a member of the graduate faculty for Nevada Studies in Nutrition at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Portions of this interview transcript have been edited for brevity and clarity.