Low carbohydrate diet may reverse kidney failure in people with diabetes

April 20, 2011

Researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine have for the first time determined that the ketogenic diet, a specialized high-fat, low carbohydrate diet, may reverse impaired kidney function in people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. They also identified a previously unreported panel of genes associated with diabetes-related kidney failure, whose expression was reversed by the diet. The findings were published in the current issue of PLoS ONE.

Charles Mobbs, PhD, Professor of Neuroscience and Geriatrics and Palliative Care Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and his research team evaluated mice that were genetically predisposed to have Type 1 or 2 diabetes. The mice were allowed to develop diabetic nephropathy, or kidney failure. Half of the mice were put on the ketogenic diet, while the control group maintained a standard high carbohydrate diet. The researcher founds that after eight weeks, kidney failure was reversed in the mice on the ketogenic diet.

"Our study is the first to show that a dietary intervention alone is enough to reverse this serious complication of diabetes," said Dr. Mobbs. "This finding has significant implications for the tens of thousands of Americans diagnosed with diabetic kidney failure, and possibly other complications, each year."

The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, moderate protein, and high-fat diet typically used to control seizures in children with epilepsy. Many cells can get their energy from ketones, which are molecules produced when the blood glucose levels are low and blood fat levels are high. When cells use ketones instead of glucose for fuel, glucose is not metabolized. Since high glucose metabolism causes kidney failure in diabetes, researchers hypothesized that the ketogenic diet would block those toxic effects of glucose. Considering the extreme requirements of the diet, it is not a long-term solution in adults. However, Dr. Mobbs' research indicates that exposure to the diet for as little as a month may be sufficient to "reset" the gene expression and pathological process leading to kidney failure.

The researchers also identified a large array of genes expressed during diabetic nephropathy not previously known to play a role in the development of this complication. These genes are associated with kidney failure as a result of the stress on cellular function. The team found that the expression of these genes was also reversed in the mice on the ketogenic diet.

Dr. Mobbs and his team plan to continue to research the impact of the ketogenic diet and the mechanism by which it reverses kidney failure in people with diabetes, and in age-related kidney failure. He believes the ketogenic diet could help treat other neurological diseases and retinopathy, a disease that results in vision loss.

"Knowing how the ketogenic diet reverses nephropathy will help us identify a drug target and subsequent pharmacological interventions that mimic the effect of the diet," said Dr. Mobbs. "We look forward to studying this promising development further."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Scientists find key to regenerating blood vessels

November 23, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) identifies a signaling pathway that is essential for angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels. The ...

Researchers find infectious prions in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease patient skin

November 22, 2017
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)—the human equivalent of mad cow disease—is caused by rogue, misfolded protein aggregates termed prions, which are infectious and cause fatal damages in the patient's brain. CJD patients ...

Surprising roles for muscle in tissue regeneration, study finds

November 22, 2017
A team of researchers at Whitehead has illuminated an important role for different subtypes of muscle cells in orchestrating the process of tissue regeneration. In a paper published in the November 22 issue of Nature, they ...

Study reveals new mechanisms of cell death in neurodegenerative disorders

November 22, 2017
Researchers at King's College London have discovered new mechanisms of cell death, which may be involved in debilitating neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Cinnamon turns up the heat on fat cells

November 21, 2017
New research from the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute has determined how a common holiday spice—cinnamon—might be enlisted in the fight against obesity.

How rogue immune cells cross the blood-brain barrier to cause multiple sclerosis

November 21, 2017
Drug designers working on therapeutics against multiple sclerosis should focus on blocking two distinct ways rogue immune cells attack healthy neurons, according to a new study in the journal Cell Reports.

4 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Andrew_Zacharuk
not rated yet Apr 20, 2011
I think that research in the near future is going to find that a Ketogenic or low-carb way of eating will have a big impact on many, many different health issues.

I wonder why that may be, maybe because we likely spent a couple million years surviving (and evolving) on a high Fat and protein diet, not Carbohydrates, which make up the bulk of what most people eat now.
ironjustice
not rated yet Apr 21, 2011
One benefit attributed to the Ketogenic Diet is it increases lecithin. IS ? it the lecithin ?

"Lecithin (phosphatidyl choline). A phospholipid found mostly in high-fat foods. It is said to have the ability to improve memory and brain processes. Lecithin is necessary for normal brain development;however, double-blind studies of patients with Alzheimer's disease did not substantiate claims that it can help people recover lost brain function. The ketogenic diet increases the amount of lecithin in the body, which may be one of the reasons for its success in some cases of
hard-to-treat epilepsy. Some people with epilepsy have also reported reducing their number and severity of seizures from taking lecithin alone."

ironjustice
not rated yet Apr 21, 2011
"Oral lecithin improves ultrafiltration in patients on peritoneal dialysis"
jaywortmanmd
not rated yet Apr 27, 2011
Ketogenic diet is sustainable over the long term. I have been doing it for over 8 years. Dr Mary Vernon who uses LCKD in her practice in Kansas has been reporting improved kidney function in diabetics for years now. The way ketogenic diet improves epilepsy appears to be because of reduced oxidative stress in the mitochondria of neurons when ketones are burned instead of glucose (Jarrett et al J.Neurochem 2008). This has broad implications beyond epilepsy. The idea that the effect of a ketogenic diet can be mimicked by a drug is laughable. Of course, unless you have a molecule to patent how are you going to get the funding to do more research on this very beneficial therapeutic intervention?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.