The Right Diet Can Save Your Kidneys

Eating a ketogenic diet may reverse kidney damaged caused by type 1 and type 2 diabetes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Changing your diet can help with many different health problems. New research supports this point by showing that patients who eat a certain kind of diet can protect their kidneys from the damage caused by diabetes.

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can cause patients' kidneys to stop working. However, doctors may be able to reverse kidney failure in people with diabetes by putting those patients on a ketogenic diet - a diet that is low in carbohydrates but high in fat.

"Changing your diet may save your kidneys from diabetes."

This study is the first to show that a diet change on its own is enough to reverse kidney failure caused by diabetes, says research leader Charles Mobbs, Ph.D., Professor of Neuroscience and Geriatrics and Palliative Care Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

This finding, Mobbs adds, could help the tens of thousands of people in the United States who are diagnosed with diabetic kidney failure every year. Knowing how the ketogenic diet reverses kidney failure will help researchers make new drugs and other treatments that have similar effects as the diet, he concludes.

In Depth

  • For their study, Dr. Mobbs and colleagues looked at the effects of the ketogenic diet on mice with diabetic kidney failure. Half of the mice they studied were put on the low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet, while the other half kept a high-carbohydrate diet.
  • After eight weeks, kidney failure was reversed in the mice on the ketogenic diet.
  • The ketogenic diet - a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet - is usually used to help children with epilepsy control their seizures. While some cells get their energy from glucose, others get their energy from ketones - molecules that the blood makes when some has low glucose levels and high blood fat levels. When cells get their energy from ketones instead of glucose, the glucose in the body is not metabolized (i.e. burnt for fuel). Because high glucose metabolization can lead to kidney failure in diabetes patients, researchers thought that the ketogenic diet would prevent the toxic effects of glucose.
  • The researchers also found a group of genes that are activated during diabetic kidney failure. They noticed that these genes were turned off in the mice on the ketogenic diet. 
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Review Date: 
April 21, 2011
Last Updated:
April 25, 2011