Low-carbohydrate diets shown to improve kidney function in individuals with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes

Low-carbohydrate diets may reverse impaired kidney function in individuals with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

The team reported in the journal PLoS ONE that mice genetically engineered to develop nephropathy, a kidney disease common among individuals with diabetes, were able to regain a significant degree of kidney function after going on a low-carbohydrate diet.

The finding has major implications for the treatment of one of the most destructive complications of diabetes, the researchers said. They showed that simple dietary alterations are sufficient to improve kidney function.

During a low-carbohydrate diet, which involves replacing carbohydrates with protein and fat, the body begins using ketones for fuel. These molecules are produced by the body when blood glucose levels are low and blood fat levels are high. When the body enters this state, it stops metabolizing glucose, effectively bypassing the main cause of kidney failure.

Charles Mobb, who led the investigation, said that low-carbohydrate diets can be difficult to maintain over an extended period of time and may not be a viable option for long-term care. However, the findings showed that the diet can lead to positive results in as few as eight weeks. He suggested that this may be sufficient to reset healthy kidney function and prevent organ failure.

Future studies may be needed to improve scientific understanding of the mechanisms that underlie the benefits of low-carbohydrate diets for diabetics with impaired kidney function, Mobb said. This scrutiny could lead to the development of improved treatments.

"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," he said.