IMAGE:  October 2002 GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
Volume 95, Issue 1
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Morning and melancholia 
Geeks go Greek 
End of the Medical Marathon?
The worst of all possible worlds 

3 rms, future vu


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GRAPHIC:  ResearchInvestigations

Low-carb diet, high-risk kidneys
Popular low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets may result in rapid weight loss, but they also appear to pose serious health problems, including increased risk of kidney stones and bone loss," report researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Texas Southwestern in the August American Journal of Kidney Diseases.

"Our study was too brief to show such a diet induced osteoporosis, but our data suggests this may be another potential risk," says Shalini Reddy, assistant professor of medicine and the study's lead author.

For the eight-week study, which was funded in part by the U.S. Public Health Service, ten healthy subjects ate a regular diet for two weeks. They followed that with two weeks on a highly restrictive diet that included some vegetables but no fruits and fewer than 20 grams of carbohydrates. Participants then ate a slightly less restrictive diet for the final four weeks.

A diet heavy on animal proteins and light on carbohydrates-like the Atkins diet-does increase fat metabolism, which can boost the amount of acid in the blood. The researchers found that acid excretion-a marker for the blood's acid load-increased as much as 90 percent while subjects were on diets that severely restricted carbohydrates. Meanwhile, calcium absorption was unchanged, but calcium excretion increased.

And with higher levels of uric acid and calcium to handle, kidneys tend to form stones. More acid in the blood also may suppress the cells that make new bone and stimulate the cells that break down bone. Therefore, much of the excreted calcium likely was leached from bone. - John Easton



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