May 6, 2011

Research: Low carb diet helps heart pump and reverses kidney disease. Mediterranean Diet Fail?

There have been several studies in the news over the past few weeks that reinforce the healthfulness of the low carb diet and cast doubt on the utility of the so-called Mediterranean diet doctors prefer because it is full of all those supposedly "healthy whole grains" and pasta.

1. A mouse study confirmed that a ketogenic low carb diet (less than 70-100 grams of carbs a day) can reverse diabetic kidney disease.

Michal M. PoplawskiReversal of Diabetic Nephropathy by a Ketogenic Diet. Michal M. Poplawski et al. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (4): e18604 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018604

Explained here: Science Daily: Low Carbohydrate Diets May Reverse Kidney Failure in People With Diabetes

I hesitated to report on this because so much rodent research does not carry over to humans, however, I have heard anecdotally from enough humans who have reversed their own kidney disease over the years by eating a ketogenic diet and keeping their blood sugar completely normal, that it's nice to see some science suggesting it is indeed possible.

2. Another rodent study found that rats with heart failure did much better on a diet that was 60% fat. This makes sense since the heart prefers to run on ketones rather than glucose.Again, this is a rat study, so we have to be cautious, and the researchers are falling all over themselves to avoid concluding that their study proved that a high fat diet doesn't damage the heart--which was probably the opposite of what they set out to prove, but this is one more piece of evidence calling into question the theory that "eating fat will destroy your heart" theory so beloved by cardiologists.

Myocardial insulin resistance induced by high fat feeding in heart failure is associated with preserved contractile function.B. A. Christopher et al. AJP: Heart and Circulatory Physiology, 2010; 299 (6): H1917 DOI: 10.1152/ajpheart.00687.2010

Described here: Science Daily: Damaged Hearts Pump Better When Fueled With Fats.

3. Finally, a Spanish study found that sixty percent of a random selection of 2,270 adults attending a healthcare centre in Malaga, Andalucia, a region with one of the highest rates of cardiovascular disease in Spain were overweight and obese and had very high risks for cardiovascular disease. This suggests that there is nothing magical about the "Mediterranean Diet" that is usually described as the most heart healthy.

This does not surprise me. There is very little data supporting the healthfulness of this diet and what little there is was collected two generations ago. The few recent diet studies that purported to prove that the Mediterranean diet was healthy did so by comparing it with the "Froot Loops diet"--one made up entirely of junk food.

Though doctors always tell people to eat the Mediterranean diet, there is no study that compares the effect of a diet featuring significant carb restriction to the Mediterranean diet in terms of the effect on blood sugar or health outcomes. So don't let anyone talk you into eating pasta because it's "health food." It isn't. It's nothing more than a slow release glucose delivery system.

Prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors in an urban adult population from southern Spain. R. Gomez-Huelgas IMAP Study. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 2011; 65 (1): 35 DOI: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2010.02543.x

Discussed here: Science Daily: Alarmingly High Cardiovascular Risk Factors Found in Mediterranean People



Trev said...

Thanks for the nice display of research backing up the low Carb ketogenic diet. Hopefully this will prompt more human research. Cheers!

PJNOIR said...

just put the sample of tour book on my iPad kindle app, it's great, love knowing I have it with me all the time, I will buy the whole thing at the end of the week. Thank you for getting it on kindle.


Jenny said...


Thanks! I'm very heartened by how many people have downloaded the Kindle version.

The Nook version is live, now, too!

Unknown said...

At my doctors recently I was told my a1c was 5. It's taken me 2 years of less then 40 carbs a day to get to that #. My doctor ( a new one for me) then proceeded to tell me I wasn't eating enough carbs and needed to increase to 40-60 PER MEAL! As I live in a very rural area and don't have many options, I did what I've been doing for 2 years, nod my head, say ok, than continue on with what I've been doing, following blood Sugar 101.

Jenny said...


It's tragic that doctors don't understand the difference between a low A1c in a person misusing insulin so that they are having many dangerous hypos and one that is achieved by maintaining normal blood sugars.

LifeCoachAndy said...

Jenny, in you refered rat study also mentioned that high fat diet led to insulin resistance of the heart muscle. In addition, when I cut carbs and go on high fat diet, my body oror becomes bad, heos anyone one else jave such prob on low carb high fat diet. I do not use any deodorants. However, when I go on low fat high carb diet, no body odor, I can even not wash my armpits for a week, not body odor. Do you know how to explain this.

Jenny said...


The issue of apparent insulin resistance while eating low carb can be explained but not in the scope of a single comment. The summary is that the organism is NOT more insulin resistant, but has downregulated the chemicals needed to process carbohydrates, so when carbohydrate is reintroduced it takes a day or two for them to ramp up. This is quite different from cellular IR.

The odor issue with a very low carb diet is usually due to eating too much protein, though people blame it on ketones. If you eat only the amount of protein you need, the odor isn't a problem. You can calculate that amount (as a ball park figure) using this
calculator: .