What is albumin?
Albumin is synthesized by the liver and is the most abundant protein in the blood. It is essential for the body to both maintain growth and repair tissues. In healthy people, a blood albumin level of less than 3.5 g/dl is considered deficient. Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative (KDOQI) guidelines, from the National Kidney Foundation, recommend a blood albumin level of >4.0 g/dl for patients with kidney diseases.
What are the causes of albumin deficiency?
Not eating enough protein is the primary reason for an inadequate albumin level. Inflammation and infection can also reduce albumin level. Possible causes of infections include an infected access, an infected foot, decayed teeth or infected gums or a bladder infection. Examples of chronic inflammations are cancer, arthritis, lupus, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Low albumin levels may be caused by liver diseases or other liver problems such as from alcohol, metabolic acidosis, or protein loss as a result of kidney diseases. It has also been shown that serum albumin declines with age.
You may increase your blood albumin level through eating animal foods that contain high quality proteins (e.g., fish, chicken, beef, pork, eggs, milk). Lower quality protein comes from foods such as nuts, beans, vegetables and grain products. You should consult your dietitian who knows how much protein you should eat and also which foods are good sources of protein. You should also consult with your doctor about possible medical issues related to a low blood albumin level. We recommend that you check your blood albumin levels quarterly if it is found to be low. If your albumin level stays low, work with your medical team to determine the cause and come up with a solution.