Following low-carb diet may improve kidney function in people with type 2 diabetes, according to a new study published in the journal Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity — showing that a higher-protein diet may not always be bad for kidney function.
Many doctors advise that people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) limit protein in their diet, since some studies have suggested that a high protein intake — especially from meat — is linked to faster progression of CKD. But the new study appears to conflict with these past findings, and shows that the benefits of limiting carbohydrate in people with type 2 diabetes and CKD may outweigh any risks from greater consumption of protein.
For the latest study, researchers followed 143 adults with type 2 diabetes, with an average age of 61, who followed a low-carb diet for over two years. This diet was based on guidance that participants should reduce their intake of starchy or sugary foods like bread, potatoes, and rice, and replace them with other options like leafy green vegetables, berries, nuts, full-fat dairy, eggs, fish, and meat, as noted in an article at the Diabetes Times. While this diet was designed to improve blood glucose control, the researchers expected kidney function to worsen in most participants — because of both their diabetes and their age.
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Low-carb diet linked to improved kidney function in participants
Instead, most participants saw improved kidney function over the course of the study. Over 30 months, serum creatinine — a blood measurement that reflects kidney function — improved by an average of about 0.05 mg/dl. To put this in perspective, the typical range for serum creatinine is 0.74 to 1.35 mg/dl for men and 0.59 to 1.04 mg/dl for women. What’s more, participants lost an average of 9.5 kilograms (20.9 pounds) and saw their A1C level (a measure of long-term blood glucose control) improve by an average of 2.0%, representing a dramatic drop in average blood glucose levels. In fact, 97% of participants saw improved blood glucose control, and 47% experienced remission of their diabetes — meaning that their blood glucose numbers were below the range associated with diabetes.
The researchers noted that all of the participants in this study had normal kidney function or only mild CKD, so more research is needed to find out if a low-carb diet is a safe and beneficial option for people with moderate to severe CKD. But based on these results, a low-carb diet may be a good option for people with type 2 who are looking to preserve their kidney function — and obtain other health benefits while doing so.
Want to learn more about keeping your kidneys healthy with diabetes? Read “Managing Diabetic Kidney Disease,” “Protecting Your Kidneys,” and “Kidney Disease: Your Seven-Step Plan for Prevention.”