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Diet Reverses Kidney Failure in Experimental Model

Posted: Sunday, May 01, 2011

A controlled diet high in fat and low in carbohydrate can repair kidney damage in diabetic mice.

The study showed a "ketogenic diet" could reverse damage caused to tubes in the kidneys by too much sugar in the blood. The researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York used mice with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Once kidney damage had developed, half the mice were put onto the ketogenic diet for eight weeks. The highly controlled diet, which is 87% fat, mimics the effect of starvation and should not be used without medical advice. After eight weeks the researchers noted that kidney damage was reversed.

Professor Charles Mobbs, who led the research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said: "Our study is the first to show that a dietary intervention alone is enough to reverse this serious complication of diabetes."

"I certainly think it has promise, but I can't recommend it until we have done clinical trials." The researchers also need to figure out the exact process that leads to repair.

Researchers also found that expression of genes that indicate kidney failure were turned off in the mice fed the ketogenic diet, according to the study.

When a person consumes a ketogenic diet, blood levels of ketones are elevated (a state called ketosis). The body's cells are able to get energy from ketones, which are molecules that are produced when fat levels in the blood are high and blood glucose levels are low, Mobbs said. Essentially the body burns fat rather than carbs (called glucose metabolism) for fuel.

"The key to the whole study is that ketones block glucose metabolism," Mobbs said. "Pretty much everybody agrees that diabetic complications are caused by too much glucose metabolism in the cell, so it was kind of an obvious hypothesis that if you can increase ketones long enough, that that would block glucose metabolism and allow the cells to recover from their damage."

Dr. Iain Frame, director of research at Diabetes UK, said: "This research was carried out in mice so it is difficult to see how these results would translate into any real benefits for people with diabetes at this stage. "It is too simple to say that kidney failure could be prevented by diet alone and it is also questionable whether the diet used in this model would be sustainable for humans, even in the short term."

Source:, PLoS ONE, April 20, 2011.

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