News Release

Do low-carb diets damage the kidneys?

Popular weight loss strategy OK for the kidneys of obese individuals without kidney disease

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Society of Nephrology


  • A low-carbohydrate high-protein weight loss diet does not negatively affect healthy obese patients' kidney function or their fluid and electrolyte balance compared with a low-fat diet.
  • Additional studies are needed to evaluate the diet's effects in different types of individuals, such as those with pre-existing kidney disease.

Washington, DC (May 31, 2012) — Low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets—like the Atkins diet—have been popular among dieters for years. For just as long, experts have worried that such diets might be harmful to the kidneys. A study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN) looks into these safety concerns.

Allon Friedman, MD, (Indiana University School of Medicine) and his colleagues compared the effects of a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet versus a standard low-fat diet on a variety of kidney-related measures in 307 obese individuals without kidney disease over a two year period.

The researchers found that a low-carbohydrate high-protein weight loss diet did not cause noticeably harmful effects to patients' kidney function or their fluid and electrolyte balance compared with a low-fat diet. "These results are relevant to the millions of healthy obese adults who use dieting as a weight loss strategy," said Dr. Friedman.

The authors noted that further follow-up is needed to determine even longer-term effects of the diet on the kidneys. Additional studies should also evaluate the effects of the diet in different types of individuals, such as those with chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or hypertension, and those at increased risk of developing kidney stones.


Study co-authors include Lorraine Ogden, PhD, Gary Foster, PhD, Samuel Klein, MD, Richard Stein, PhD, Bernard Miller, MD, James Hill, PhD, Carrie Brill, Brooke Bailer, PhD, Diane Rosenbaum, and Holly Wyatt, MD.

An editorial will accompany the July 2012 print publication of this study.

Disclosures: The authors reported no financial disclosures.

The article, entitled "Comparative Effects of Low-Carbohydrate High-Protein Versus Low-Fat Diets on Kidney Function," will appear online at on May 31, 2012, doi: 10.2215/CJN.11741111.

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Founded in 1966, and with more than 13,500 members, the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) leads the fight against kidney disease by educating health professionals, sharing new knowledge, advancing research, and advocating the highest quality care for patients.

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