An inexplicable epidemic in Central America, where more than 16,000 people — mostly sugarcane workers — have died from incurable chronic kidney disease. NBC’s Kerry Sanders reports from Nicaragua.
By Kerry Sanders and Lisa Riordan Seville
For a refreshing pick-me-up, they occasionally slice a stalk of cane, peeling back its “bark” and sticking it in their mouths, where it produces a sweet sugary liquid.
But investigators now wonder: Could that constant flow of sucrose, combined with 90-plus degree temperatures and severe daily dehydration, be a deadly cocktail that slowly brings on CKD?
“We believe high amounts of sugar solutions may not cause much kidney damage,” said Dr. Richard Johnson, head of the division of renal disease and hypertension at the University of Colorado, Denver. “But under certain circumstances, such as dehydration, we’re concerned the sugar may actually be toxic in causing damage to the kidneys.” [sic]