Junk food can cause as much damage to the kidney as diabetes, warns new research.
The study, published in the journal Experimental Physiology, showed eating junk food regularly causes similar blood sugar levels as Type 2 diabetes.
Researchers say type 2 diabetes is often associated with obesity and the number of cases are rising at an "alarming" rate.
In type 2 diabetes, the body doesn't produce enough insulin or doesn't react to it. This causes an accumulation of sugar, or glucose, in the blood, which can have severe long-term consequences for organs, including the kidneys, where it can lead to diabetic kidney disease.
Researchers believe that finding a way to block glucose reabsorption in the kidneys could offer a potential treatment for lowering blood sugar levels.
In their study, scientists used animal models of diabetes and models of diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance to see how insulin resistance and too much sugar or fat affect glucose transporters in the kidney.
The rats were fed junk food consisting of cheese, chocolate bars, biscuits and marshmallows for eight weeks or a rodent chow high in fat for five weeks.
The researchers then tested the effect of the diets on blood sugar levels and the different glucose transporters in the kidneys. The effect of the diets on the transporters was compared with the changes also seen in rat models of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
The results showed that certain types of glucose transporters (GLUT and SGLT) as well as their regulatory proteins were present in a higher number in type 2 diabetic rats.
But a high fat diet and junk food diet caused a similar increase in the receptors.
Study leader Dr Havovi Chichger, a senior lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, said: "The Western diet contains more and more processed junk food and fat, and there is a well-established link between excessive consumption of this type of food and recent increases in the prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
"In our study, type 1 and type 2 diabetes both induce changes in glucose transport in the kidney, but junk food or a diet high in fat causes changes that are very similar to those found in type 2 diabetes."
She added, "A new treatment for diabetic patients constitutes blocking the glucose transporter in the kidney to reduce blood glucose levels.
"Understanding how diet can affect sugar handling in the kidneys and whether the inhibitors can reverse these changes could help to protect the kidneys from further damage."