Exploring keto diets as a treatment for kidney disease

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Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) affects a large number of people worldwide, causing painful cysts in the kidneys and impairing their function.

Seeking new treatment options, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, discovered that a specific type of diet, known as a ketogenic diet, had a surprising impact on PKD in animal studies.

This finding led them to investigate whether ketogenic diets could benefit real-life PKD patients.

The Ketogenic Diet’s Effect on PKD

In their animal studies, researchers observed that putting lab animals in a state of ketosis—achieved through a ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, or administering a specific ketone called beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB)—resulted in a remarkable shrinkage of kidney cysts.

This metabolic state seemed to counteract the development of cysts, providing a potential avenue for PKD treatment.

Real-Life Experiences of PKD Patients

To gain a better understanding of how ketogenic diets could be utilized in PKD management, the research team conducted a unique study.

They recruited 131 patients with autosomal dominant PKD, the more common form of the disease, who had already tried either a ketogenic diet or a time-restricted diet for an average of six months.

Through telephone interviews, the team explored the participants’ experiences, including changes in health conditions, kidney function, and safety concerns.

Promising Findings and Safety Considerations

The results of the study were highly encouraging. A significant majority of participants (86%) reported overall health improvements resulting from the dietary interventions.

Moreover, a majority (67%) described improvements in PKD-related health issues, including blood pressure, and substantial weight loss (90%) was observed.

While adverse effects like “keto flu,” hunger, and fatigue were reported, they tended to subside over time.

Safety concerns were mainly related to raised cholesterol levels, which are a known effect of ketogenic diets and often normalize over time. It is essential for PKD patients utilizing these diets to do so under medical supervision.

Future Trials and Collaborations

The research team aims to conduct additional clinical trials to gather more data on the effects of ketogenic diets on PKD patients.

They are collaborating with a clinical research team in Germany to conduct a pilot trial comparing ketogenic diets and intermittent fasting. This trial will provide structured data to design a more comprehensive clinical trial.

Additionally, the team is partnering with dieticians in the United States to assess the “Ren.Nu” program, which focuses on kidney-safe, plant-based ketogenic dietary and lifestyle changes.

The outcomes of this collaboration will be evaluated in a clinical trial in collaboration with the University of Toronto.

Unraveling the Potential of Ketogenic Diets

The discovery that ketogenic diets may have a positive impact on Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is an exciting development in the search for effective treatments.

While the study’s findings offer hope, further research is needed to solidify the effects of ketogenic diets on PKD.

By continuing to investigate the potential benefits of this dietary approach, researchers strive to make a significant impact in the lives of PKD patients and advance the understanding of this complex disease.

The study is published in the Clinical Kidney Journal.

If you care about kidney health, please read studies about how to protect your kidneys from diabetes, and drinking coffee could help reduce the risk of kidney injury.

For more information about kidney health, please see recent studies about foods that may prevent the recurrence of kidney stones, and eating nuts linked to a lower risk of chronic kidney disease and death.

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