Diabetes, Kidney Damage, and Ketogenic Diets

Take a look at this PBS video sent to me by one of our readers – and try not to punch your monitor near the end:

So close …

Okay, let’s focus on the positive for now. I was delighted to hear one of the on-screen experts explain that high glucose levels appear to cause repeated injury to the kidneys.

Well-meaning people have tried to warn me over that a “high protein” diet is hard on the kidneys.  Why? Because damaged kidneys leak protein.  But that doesn’t mean protein is causing the damage.  If your kitchen pipes start leaking water, do you assume the damage was caused by water?  Of course not.  The kidneys are damaged by excess glucose, and then they leak protein.

I was delighted again to hear a researcher explain that ketones can be used as an alternate energy source by most cells in the body, and that on a ketogenic diet  the body switches from being primarily a glucose-metabolizing machine to a fat-and-ketone metabolizing machine.

As I like to explain it to people, you can be sugar-burner or a fat-burner. I find life as a fat-burner much more pleasant … more consistent energy, better mood, no more creeping weight gain, and no more ravenous hunger if I skip a meal. As I write this, I’m 23 hours into a 24-hour intermittent fasting day, and I feel fine.

I was delighted yet again when the researchers speculated that removing glucose from the picture might help the kidneys recover, then discovered that putting mice on a ketogenic diet did indeed reverse the kidney damage caused by diabetes. Sure, it’s just a rodent study with results that may or may not apply to humans, but as the researcher said, it’s a proof of principle, an avenue to be explored.

All right!  Cool!  Great story so far. I was anxiously waiting for the part where he suggests we try the same diet on diabetic humans with damaged kidneys in a clinical trial.

And that’s when it all went south:

But the researchers are quick to point out that what happened to the mice does not mean that people with kidney disease should switch to a high fat diet, which could cause other health problems.

Say what?!  A diet that reverses kidney damage is going to kill you by … doing what, exactly?  Giving you heart disesae?  Are you telling me we’re going to examine these startling results through the lens of the ancient and discredited Lipid Hypothesis?

Yes, apparently we are.

“We don’t want to put anyone on the diet itself.  We just want to figure out how the diet works so that we can replicate the effects of the diet in a drug.”

Head.  Bang.  On.  Desk.


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224 thoughts on “Diabetes, Kidney Damage, and Ketogenic Diets

  1. Dennis K.

    ARGHHHH……Lets not jump to conclusions here, but let’s wait until we can make a drug that mimics this result. ARGH!!!! Thanks for posting.

    I share your ARGHHH.

    Reply
  2. Dan S

    “We don’t want to put anyone on the diet itself. We just want to figure out how the diet works so that we can replicate the effects of the diet in a drug.”

    Of course not. Too much pressure due to the billions that would be lost from Lipid Hypo science, farm subsidies, Weight loss industry, lobbyist of all kinds, an angry First Lady, and pharmaceuticals. Speaking of which, they must be the biggest angry fist as their stated goal is “We don’t want to put anyone on the diet itself. We just want to figure out how the diet works so that we can replicate the effects of the diet in a drug.”

    Big Parm, and everyone hates Big Oil. Another talking point at my next appointment. Thanks for the post.

    Reply
  3. Dana

    I was interested to learn that African-Americans are more likely to be insulin-resistant than white people are in this country. That alone explains their higher rates of hypertension (caused and/or aggravated by hyperinsulinism–this is known science) and of kidney disease. Is anyone telling them to get off the sugar and the starch? Nah. They’re telling them to get off the soul food. Then are just *mystified* when these poor folks wind up on dialysis.

    I’m bangin my head right there with you.

    (Why more likely to be insulin-resistant? I’m going to guess it’s due to the epigenetic effects of multi-generational poverty and the resulting malnutrition, but of course that’s just a guess. I suspect the usual excuse that some people get type 2 diabetes because they “inherited a tendency” is mostly so much overblown hype, because when we say “inherited” we mean “hardwired DNA code” and that’s just silly, there’s no evolutionary advantage to dying blind on dialysis with your feet missing. Inherited through epigenetics, *maybe*, but that can happen to anyone.)

    Reply
  4. Alcinda Morrison Moore

    Punch the monitor????? OH MY GOD!!! I wanted to throw the whole computer across the room!!

    I am speechless!

    If I did that every time some expert engaged in anti-fat hysteria, I’d personally make the computer industry rich.

    Reply
  5. Paul Bourret

    Holy crap! I see why you gave us the warning at the beginning. I can’t believe that after proving something to themselves, they talked themselves into believing that what they showed is unhealthy! Morons!

    Just shows how ingrained the anti-fat hysteria is.

    Reply
  6. Underground

    “replicate the effects of the diet in a drug.”

    Moneymoneymoneymoney, Monnnney!

    Was there ever any doubt?

    Nope.

    Reply
  7. bg

    It’s refreshing to see the research/medical establishment come right out and say they are more interested in developing a drug than advising dietary/behavioral change to solve a health problem.

    Reply
  8. Mike P

    The guy who mentioned that they don’t want to put anyone on the diet, just replicate it in a drug, EXEMPLIFIES how researchers can be bought and sold. I had so much hope in the first 6-ish minutes of that, but conventional wisdom stepped up to the plate at the bottom of 9th to deliver a crushing blow.

    Great post Tom – keep it up!!

    They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

    Reply
  9. Junebug

    Weeeelllllll.
    On the one hand, they are right about mouse studies. There are lots of things that work great in mice, but are a total wash-out in people. The problem is, we do have evidence that this works in people. This is how they controlled diabetes before insulin was developed. Maybe the Swedes can do human studies, now that they have embraced the low-carb, high-fat diet. Or maybe we will start seeing a decline in kidney problem in Swedish diabetics due to their switch to a low-carb.high-fat diet. Those effects should be evident farily quickly.

    Reply
  10. Drew @ Willpower Is For Fat Pe

    What do you expect? There’s no money in telling people to eat different food, they’ve got to make a drug for it. And let’s not forget that even if you come up with a drug that heals kidney damage, if you don’t also change their diet they’re just going to cause the damage again. Which means you’re on the drug for life. The perfect drug.

    For what it’s worth, this is one of the places I think public funding is the only thing that can produce the right research. There’s billions to be made selling “maintenance” drugs. Who’s going to fund the research that proves eating low carb is all you need?

    Yes, I know it was government policy that started us down this road. But that’s where we are now, and I don’t see where anyone has the financial incentive to disprove the “conventional wisdom”.

    Remember all those crappy studies funded by the USDA? Before he died, Michael Crichton called for triple-blind studies — the third form of blindness being that the researchers don’t know who funded the study.

    Reply
  11. john

    Isn’t it a shame that the same diet that treats Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, ALS, nephropathy, brain cancer, obesity, AD(H)D; increases our resistance to toxins; speeds our recovery after brain injury; and slows brain aging also clogs our arteries? Nature is so cruel. Or, maybe it doesn’t clog our arteries–that’s possible too…

    I vote for the latter.

    Reply
  12. Ricardo

    I wonder what would they find if they tested it on other diseases like Heart Disease, Cancer or Diabetes that would be interesting.

    We know from clinical trials that a low-carb, high-fat diet produces higher HDL and lower triglycerides in humans.

    Reply
  13. AndreaLynnette

    You know, my mom’s in kidney failure, and desperately needs to be convinced that a low-carb, high-fat, high-protein diet is good for you. Every time one of these BS stories comes out, she takes it as evidence against what I’m doing and want her to do. This is personal for me, because this bad advice and fake science is KILLING my mom! And these “doctors” and “researches” don’t seem to care, as long as the grants keep coming from Kellogs and Pfizer. Well, dammit, I care!

    I want to find these people and show them the pictures of my mom’s feet with the ulcers on them, her scars from them, show them her near-blindness, her kidney function tests, all the terrible things that have come from the awful lies they spread under the umbrella of their “expertise.” I don’t care what their reasons are, and I don’t care what their intentions were. Their results are death and disease and pain and I am sick of it!

    I should stop typing while I’m still PG-rated.

    I know exactly what you mean.

    Reply
  14. Devin

    I got into a discussion about weight loss today with our school nurse over lunch after she offered to let me try the whole wheat tortillas that came with today’s school lunch (chicken “fajitas”) and I declined and just stuck with my salad and tuna. She told me about this new product Dr. Oz is pushing– raspberry ketones. Apparently making your own ketones will kill your kidneys, but take several hundred milligrams each day of ketones chemically extracted from raspberries and you’ll burn fat and increase your hormone sensitivity! And this was all proven on mice who were fed a “high fat diet” to “induce obesity” while being given these raspberry ketones. I thought it was a little insane and told her my body makes enough of its own ketones and I don’t see the point of paying $60 to buy artificial ones, but she said she ordered some and she promised to let me know how it turns out for her.

    So your own ketones will kill you, but if you ingest them, that’s health food.

    My desk will never be safe.

    Reply
  15. Aaron

    I had several people inquire about raspberry ketones in the store I work at a couple of days ago. I wrote an amusing post about it.

    Sad but true.

    Well done.

    Reply
  16. Gary McRiddle

    I saw that video on Mark’s Daily Apple a while back, and it struck me funny how the researches seemed to think a ketogenic diet was so revolutionary and exciting. Yeah, if only they knew ketogenic diets were good for diabetics back in the early 20th century, right?

    Oh wait!

    Reply
  17. Unemployedjohn

    It’s encouraging, at least, that the study of, and partial talking up of, a low-carb, higher-fat diet is taking place on the left-wing PBS. So many left-wingers I know have an almost religious aversion to high-fat and meat in general, forswearing them or limiting them like a Catholic Monk during Lent. Many, like you did Tom, attempt vegetarianism, or even veganism, and end up being locavore limited meat eaters. Either they become sickly and weak, or have a permanent pudge.

    I try to introduce them to “Fat-head” every chance I get, especially if I can steer them onto the subject of “SuperSize Me”, since many buy the whole documentary hook, line, and sinker. I don’t want to be preachy like many vegetarians/vegans I know, but it’s hard not to get fired up about it.

    I’ve met plenty of conservatives who believe saturated fat causes heart disease and red meat causes cancer, including some good friends who STILL believe that even after seeing Fat Head. I have noticed a libertarian streak among the paleo crowd, which is a positive sign.

    Reply
  18. Unemployedjohn

    P.S. I have a particular friend I’d like to convert.

    She’s a die-hard libertarian, so she’s got the right mindset. However, she’s addicted to running marathons. Although she never got sick, after hearing of so many people getting health problems from marathons (especially the heart attacks), she was so addicted that, instead of cutting back on marathons, she decided to go full-on vegan, since she’s read arguments that it’s the “perfect” marathon eating way. She runs 3+ marathons a year. But she’s severely miserable without meat.

    What do you think is the best way to approach her?

    Give her a copy of “The Primal Blueprint” by Mark Sisson. He was a long-distance runner, so she may relate to his story.

    Reply
  19. Dennis K.

    ARGHHHH……Lets not jump to conclusions here, but let’s wait until we can make a drug that mimics this result. ARGH!!!! Thanks for posting.

    I share your ARGHHH.

    Reply
  20. Dan S

    “We don’t want to put anyone on the diet itself. We just want to figure out how the diet works so that we can replicate the effects of the diet in a drug.”

    Of course not. Too much pressure due to the billions that would be lost from Lipid Hypo science, farm subsidies, Weight loss industry, lobbyist of all kinds, an angry First Lady, and pharmaceuticals. Speaking of which, they must be the biggest angry fist as their stated goal is “We don’t want to put anyone on the diet itself. We just want to figure out how the diet works so that we can replicate the effects of the diet in a drug.”

    Big Parm, and everyone hates Big Oil. Another talking point at my next appointment. Thanks for the post.

    Reply
  21. Dana

    I was interested to learn that African-Americans are more likely to be insulin-resistant than white people are in this country. That alone explains their higher rates of hypertension (caused and/or aggravated by hyperinsulinism–this is known science) and of kidney disease. Is anyone telling them to get off the sugar and the starch? Nah. They’re telling them to get off the soul food. Then are just *mystified* when these poor folks wind up on dialysis.

    I’m bangin my head right there with you.

    (Why more likely to be insulin-resistant? I’m going to guess it’s due to the epigenetic effects of multi-generational poverty and the resulting malnutrition, but of course that’s just a guess. I suspect the usual excuse that some people get type 2 diabetes because they “inherited a tendency” is mostly so much overblown hype, because when we say “inherited” we mean “hardwired DNA code” and that’s just silly, there’s no evolutionary advantage to dying blind on dialysis with your feet missing. Inherited through epigenetics, *maybe*, but that can happen to anyone.)

    Reply
  22. Alcinda Morrison Moore

    Punch the monitor????? OH MY GOD!!! I wanted to throw the whole computer across the room!!

    I am speechless!

    If I did that every time some expert engaged in anti-fat hysteria, I’d personally make the computer industry rich.

    Reply
  23. Paul Bourret

    Holy crap! I see why you gave us the warning at the beginning. I can’t believe that after proving something to themselves, they talked themselves into believing that what they showed is unhealthy! Morons!

    Just shows how ingrained the anti-fat hysteria is.

    Reply
  24. Underground

    “replicate the effects of the diet in a drug.”

    Moneymoneymoneymoney, Monnnney!

    Was there ever any doubt?

    Nope.

    Reply
  25. bg

    It’s refreshing to see the research/medical establishment come right out and say they are more interested in developing a drug than advising dietary/behavioral change to solve a health problem.

    Reply
  26. Lori

    I just spent the past day and a half suffering from side effects and an allergic reaction to a medication. And these money-grubbing enablers want to discourage people from solving their problems with diet and sell them pills instead? I hope there is a special place in hell for them.

    Unfortunately, they believe a fatty diet will kill you … while saving your kidneys, of course.

    Reply
  27. Michael

    This is just effing UNREAL!! I know you can’t make a horse drink once you’ve led it to water, but in this case the evidence is pouring the water down the horse’s throat. And still, STILL, even after we have completely reversed liver damage and diabetes they won’t acknowledge that maybe Mother Nature gives us everything we need.

    A lot of what you have posted has made me slightly incredulous, but the last 90 seconds of this video makes me lose all hope in the scientific community. I literally gasped when he got to the bit about duplicating the results with a drug.

    I agree that everything else was very useful. I was yelling at the screen “I told you so!”

    Reply
  28. Mike P

    The guy who mentioned that they don’t want to put anyone on the diet, just replicate it in a drug, EXEMPLIFIES how researchers can be bought and sold. I had so much hope in the first 6-ish minutes of that, but conventional wisdom stepped up to the plate at the bottom of 9th to deliver a crushing blow.

    Great post Tom – keep it up!!

    They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

    Reply
  29. Junebug

    Weeeelllllll.
    On the one hand, they are right about mouse studies. There are lots of things that work great in mice, but are a total wash-out in people. The problem is, we do have evidence that this works in people. This is how they controlled diabetes before insulin was developed. Maybe the Swedes can do human studies, now that they have embraced the low-carb, high-fat diet. Or maybe we will start seeing a decline in kidney problem in Swedish diabetics due to their switch to a low-carb.high-fat diet. Those effects should be evident farily quickly.

    Reply
  30. Gryzio

    I’ve recently saw on TV in my country an interview with some professor of medicine. He talked about ‘prevention’ in medical care. It was somewhat disturbing – he told that ‘people’ see prevention the same way it was seen in 17’th century (as avoiding things which can cause illness) which in his view IS BAD THING. He told, that medical care has gone forward and see prevention as possibly early diagnosis of illness – to put patient on ‘proper drugs’.
    Of course it’s a good thing when we talk about say cancer. But as a generalization of XXI century medicine it’s very sad story. They don’t really want to know what causing the illness (except if it can kill you fast – they don’t want this) to prevent it happen. They want to know how to extend your live x years more being drug-dependent. Money, money, money…

    Reply
  31. Drew @ Willpower Is For Fat People

    What do you expect? There’s no money in telling people to eat different food, they’ve got to make a drug for it. And let’s not forget that even if you come up with a drug that heals kidney damage, if you don’t also change their diet they’re just going to cause the damage again. Which means you’re on the drug for life. The perfect drug.

    For what it’s worth, this is one of the places I think public funding is the only thing that can produce the right research. There’s billions to be made selling “maintenance” drugs. Who’s going to fund the research that proves eating low carb is all you need?

    Yes, I know it was government policy that started us down this road. But that’s where we are now, and I don’t see where anyone has the financial incentive to disprove the “conventional wisdom”.

    Remember all those crappy studies funded by the USDA? Before he died, Michael Crichton called for triple-blind studies — the third form of blindness being that the researchers don’t know who funded the study.

    Reply
  32. john

    Isn’t it a shame that the same diet that treats Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, ALS, nephropathy, brain cancer, obesity, AD(H)D; increases our resistance to toxins; speeds our recovery after brain injury; and slows brain aging also clogs our arteries? Nature is so cruel. Or, maybe it doesn’t clog our arteries–that’s possible too…

    I vote for the latter.

    Reply
  33. Ricardo

    I wonder what would they find if they tested it on other diseases like Heart Disease, Cancer or Diabetes that would be interesting.

    We know from clinical trials that a low-carb, high-fat diet produces higher HDL and lower triglycerides in humans.

    Reply
  34. AndreaLynnette

    You know, my mom’s in kidney failure, and desperately needs to be convinced that a low-carb, high-fat, high-protein diet is good for you. Every time one of these BS stories comes out, she takes it as evidence against what I’m doing and want her to do. This is personal for me, because this bad advice and fake science is KILLING my mom! And these “doctors” and “researches” don’t seem to care, as long as the grants keep coming from Kellogs and Pfizer. Well, dammit, I care!

    I want to find these people and show them the pictures of my mom’s feet with the ulcers on them, her scars from them, show them her near-blindness, her kidney function tests, all the terrible things that have come from the awful lies they spread under the umbrella of their “expertise.” I don’t care what their reasons are, and I don’t care what their intentions were. Their results are death and disease and pain and I am sick of it!

    I should stop typing while I’m still PG-rated.

    I know exactly what you mean.

    Reply
  35. Devin

    I got into a discussion about weight loss today with our school nurse over lunch after she offered to let me try the whole wheat tortillas that came with today’s school lunch (chicken “fajitas”) and I declined and just stuck with my salad and tuna. She told me about this new product Dr. Oz is pushing– raspberry ketones. Apparently making your own ketones will kill your kidneys, but take several hundred milligrams each day of ketones chemically extracted from raspberries and you’ll burn fat and increase your hormone sensitivity! And this was all proven on mice who were fed a “high fat diet” to “induce obesity” while being given these raspberry ketones. I thought it was a little insane and told her my body makes enough of its own ketones and I don’t see the point of paying $60 to buy artificial ones, but she said she ordered some and she promised to let me know how it turns out for her.

    So your own ketones will kill you, but if you ingest them, that’s health food.

    My desk will never be safe.

    Reply

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