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The carb-kidney connection

May 24, 2011

A low-carb diet won’t just help diabetics lose weight, seize control of their blood sugar and lower the risk of heart problems–it can also turn back the clock and undo some of the disease’s deadliest damage.

And now, a study on mice shows how a modified version of the diet can actually reverse kidney failure–and if it works in humans, it may even eliminate the need for dialysis.

Researchers induced kidney failure in mice with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, then put half on an extreme version of the low-carb diet. These mice got up to 87 percent of their calories from fat, with most of the rest from protein and very little from carbs.

The other half was put on a more typical high-carb diet–much like the human diabetics who’ve been gobbling down carbs based on deadly advice from the American Diabetes Association. (Read this for more on why you should ignore everything you hear from the ADA.)

After eight weeks, the mice on the extreme low-carb diet were like new rodents– at least on the inside: Their kidneys had actually repaired themselves, especially in those that had type 1 diabetes.

If this works in humans, researchers say it could actually cure diabetic kidney failure in as little as a month, according to the study in PLoS ONE.

Just one note here: The diet was so high in fat and so low in protein that it’s extreme even by the most die-hard low-carb standards. It actually mimics the effects of starvation, and should only be used for a limited period–and only under the close supervision of a doctor.

And if you’re not suffering from kidney problems yet, do yourself a favor and get back on track now with a more traditional low-carb diet along with some regular movement–even a simple daily walk through the park.

Many diabetics who surrender sugar, flour, and the rest of the carbs and start moving again find they need fewer and fewer meds to keep the disease under control–and some reach the point where they no longer need insulin or even the dangerous diabetes drugs that come with as many risks as the disease itself.

Just don’t forget the bad habits that brought the disease in the first place–and make sure you don’t let them creep back in.