In a recent study published in Cell Metabolism, researchers have found a popular diet could hold the key to treating polycystic kidney disease (PKD).
The study is from UC Santa Barbara. One author is UC Santa Barbara biochemist Thomas Weimbs.
Hereditary and relatively common, PKD has long been thought to be progressive and irreversible, condemning its sufferers to a long, slow and often painful decline as fluid filled cysts develop in the kidneys, grow and eventually rob the organs of their function.
Once their kidneys fail, PKD patients often require dialysis several times a week or must undergo a kidney transplant.
Progress toward finding a cure has been sluggish, with only one drug proven to slow—but not stop—the progression of PKD.
In previous studies, the team found that reducing food intake in mouse models slowed the growth of polycystic kidneys; but at the time, they did not know why.
In the current study, they found the specific metabolic process responsible for slowing the progress of the disease.
They showed there’s a way of avoiding the development of the cysts through dietary interventions that lead to ketosis.
Ketosis is the underlying metabolic state of popular diets such as the ketogenic diet.
To a lesser extent, time-restricted feeding (a form of intermittent fasting), has been shown in the group’s studies to stall and even reverse PKD.
The team says it’s surprisingly effective— much more effective than any drug treatment that they’ve tested. This is because the cysts appear to be largely glucose-dependent.
In people with PKD, the continuous supply of sugar in the high-carbohydrate, high-sugar diets of modern culture serves to feed the growth and development of the fluid-filled sacs.
The team found that the presence of ketones in the bloodstream, in particular, inhibits the growth of the kidney cysts.
And with a steady supply, ketones actually acted to reverse the condition in their animal studies.
The problem with typical Western diets is that people almost never go into ketosis: they eat high-carb, high-sugar foods almost continuously throughout the day, securing for themselves a continuous supply of glucose.
In the ketogenic diet, the body’s typical “go-to” source of energy—glucose—is taken away as ketogenic dieters focus on non-carbohydrate foods, eventually forcing their bodies to mimic the fasting response.
Time-restricted feeders, meanwhile, reach that state by limiting the window of time they eat to a small part of the day, leaving the remaining 16-20 hours of their day for the body to use up the carbs and sugars and switch over into ketosis.
The team says this research has huge implications on the field of PKD. It adds another disease to the list that a ketogenic diet can be used to treat.
It’s quite possible to reach ketosis just by avoiding carbs or by fasting for a period of time. But the key to success with diet-related issues is consistency.
The team now is developing a dietary supplement formulated specifically for supporting kidney health while boosting energy levels.
If you care about kidney health, please read studies about common painkiller may harm your immune system, damage heart and kidneys and findings of healthy plant-based diet could protect your kidney health.
For more information about kidney disease and your health, please see recent studies about this drug may protect kidney and heart health in people with diabetes and results showing that too much vitamin D may cause kidney failure.
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