Although there are no studies that show that Atkins causes kidney or liver problems in healthy individuals, there are still ill informed health professionals who equate Atkins with excessively high protein intake and the potential for kidney function decline. Those of us here in the community know that Atkins is not a very high protein diet; we recommend a protein intake that is no more than 25 to 30% of total calories, which is optimal. There are already research trials that examined liver and kidney and heart function on participants who followed ketogenic diets (Atkins approach) in which no negative effects were observed up to two years after. Also, follow-up on patients at Dr. Atkins’ medical practice (Dr. Atkins used his diet in private practice for 30 years) found no adverse effect on their kidney and liver functions.
Now there is more good news! A new study conducted by the American Diabetes Association supports the safety and efficacy of a low-carb diet like Atkins. This latest study compared a low-carb diet with Mediterranean or low-fat diets and their impact on preserving and/or improving renal (kidney) function of 318 moderately obese folks with or without type-2 diabetes. These participants were followed over the course of two years during a randomized and controlled trial, and a low-carb diet like Atkins was found to be just at effective and safe at preserving or improving kidney function as a Mediterranean diet or a low-fat diet.
The researchers believe that any improvement in kidney function was most likely due to the positive effects of weight loss from these diets, including improvements in insulin sensitivity and blood pressure. This type of research is always encouraging because it continues to show that if you are doing Atkins, not only will it help you lose weight (and keep it off), but that the protein intake does not have a negative impact on your kidneys, and, in fact, there is the potential that the weight loss may lead to improved kidney function in some folks.