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Ketogenic diet may reverse impaired kidney function in diabetics

December 25, 2015

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."

Source Mount Sinai School of Medicine