A low-protein diet (LPD) can be expected to retard renal function decline in advanced stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD), including diabetic kidney disease (DKD), and is recommended in a clinical setting. Regarding the molecular mechanisms of an LPD against DKD, previous animal studies have shown that an LPD exerts reno-protection through mainly the improvement of glomerular hyperfiltration/hypertension due to the reduction of intraglomerular pressure. On the other hand, we have demonstrated that an LPD, particularly a very-LPD (VLPD), improved tubulo-interstitial damage, inflammation and fibrosis, through the restoration of autophagy via the reduction of a mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) activity in type 2 diabetes and obesity animal models. Thus, based on animal studies, a VLPD may show a more beneficial effect against advanced DKD. Previous clinical reports have also shown that a VLPD, not a moderate LPD, slows the progression of renal dysfunction in patients with chronic glomerular nephritis. However, there is insufficient clinical data regarding the beneficial effects of a VLPD against DKD. Additionally, the patients with CKD, including DKD, are a high-risk group for malnutrition, such as protein–energy wasting (PEW), sarcopenia, and frailty. Therefore, an LPD, including a VLPD, should be prescribed to patients when the benefits of an LPD outweigh the risks, upon consideration of adherence, age, and nutritional status. As the future predicts, the development of a VLPD replacement therapy without malnutrition may be expected for reno-protection against the advanced stages of DKD, through the regulation of mTORC1 activity and adequate autophagy induction. However, further studies to elucidate detailed mechanisms by which a VLPD exerts reno-protection are necessary.
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