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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Daniela and Mimi

In 1939, Dr. Walter Kempner, a Duke University Professor Emeritus of Medicine, introduced the first diet-based program to treat “malignant” hypertension and kidney failure. Called the rice diet, it consisted of rice, sugar, fruit, and fruit juices, providing 25 grams of protein in a 2,400 calorie a day diet, with reduced sodium, no animal fat, no animal protein, and no cholesterol. Initially, sugar was used as an additional source of calories so that people would not lose too much weight. He had hoped the diet would stop the progression of the disease.

Results of the Rice Diet on High Blood Pressure

While at Duke, Dr. Kempner treated move than 18,000 patients with his rice diet. Patients entered the program with blood pressure readings of 210/140 and left with readings down to 80/60. The disease reversed in two-thirds of the patients: reversal of heart failure, eye damage, and kidney failure. Patients often gradually transitioned to a less restrictive diet without their high blood pressure returning and without added medications.

Results of the Rice Diet on Obesity

Dr. Kempner’s rice diet showed that morbidly obese people could achieve significant weight loss without hospitalization, surgery, or drugs. He treated his overweight patients with a lower calorie version of the diet. The average weight loss among 106 patients was 141 pounds.

Results of the Rice Diet on Diabetes

Although Kempner assumed that his 90 percent carbohydrate rice diet would make diabetes worse, after treating 100 people with diabetes with the rice diet for at least three months, he found that their fasting blood sugar levels dropped, despite a reduction in the insulin they were taking. Surprisingly, 30 percent of the patients had a reversal of diabetic retinopathy.

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