593: Nephrologist Dr. Keith Runyan Finds Low-Carb Ketogenic Diet Through Type 1 Diabetes


Nephrologist and low-carb obesity medicine practitioner Dr. Keith Runyan is our guest today on The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show with Jimmy Moore!


When you train to become a medical doctor, it’s generally understood that you will come out of school with an adept knowledge about anatomy, histology, embryology, physiology, biochemistry, cell biology, and genetics which all directly impact people’s health. But a glaring omission in this educational piece is the subject of nutrition and the indelible connection it plays on chronic diseases and obesity. This is something that Dr. Keith Runyan had to discover for himself beginning in 1996 when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

When he realized he had diabetes, this St. Petersburg, FL-based nephrologist attempted to follow the American Diabetes Association recommended low-fat diet with a dietary intake of 50-60% carbohydrates. He thought he needed to eat this way along with balancing out his diet with insulin use, but his blood sugar control was still too erratic to be considered a success after two years of eating this way. That’s when Dr. Runyan decided to dibble-dabble with the low-carb strategies suggested by former podcast guest Dr. Richard Bernstein and in 2011 took at serious look at both the Paleo diet and the low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet to bring even better management of his diabetes as well as fueling his newfound passion for participating in triathlons. The results have been phenomenal.

Hypoglycemia has virtually vanished. Triglycerides have dropped. HDL cholesterol has increased. C-reactive protein (marker of inflammation) has plummeted. And Dr. Runyan credits his use of a well-formulated low-carbohydrate nutritional approach for making this happen. He has become so enthusiastic about this way of eating that he is pursuing board certification in obesity medicine later this year. Listen in as Jimmy and Dr. Runyan discuss this extraordinary story of how one medical professional took back control of his own health and is now committed to helping his patients live a long and healthy low-carb lifestyle, too!


Ask The Low-Carb Experts podcast airs LIVE on Thursday nights at 7PM ET
Low-Carb Conversations with Jimmy Moore & Friends podcast airing on Fridays
Dr. Keith Runyan bio
Dr. Runyan’s Ironman triathlon with Type 1 daibetes experience
Dr. Runyan’s fields of medical practice in St. Petersburg, FL
Dr. Runyan’s listing on the “List Of Low-Carb Doctors”
– RELATED PODCAST: 264: Dr. Richard Bernstein On The Low-Carb Diabetes Solution

3 Responses to 593: Nephrologist Dr. Keith Runyan Finds Low-Carb Ketogenic Diet Through Type 1 Diabetes
  1. Steve Parker, M.D.
    July 24, 2012 | 9:31 pm

    Well done, Jimmy and Dr. Runyon.  l’ll point my readers here.

    Regarding paleo diet….
    My recollection is that Cordain’s version provides about 30% of total calories as carbohydrate.  On a 2400 calorie diet, that would be 180 g of carb.  Standard American Diet provides 250-300 g of carb daily.  Compared to type 1’s, type 2 diabetics may be better able to process 180 g of carb, depending on residual pancreas beta cell function, degree of insulin resistance, etc.

    Bernstein’s diet, of course, recommends about 20 g of digestible carb daily. 

    In Cordain’s defense, I’ll mention that his version of the paleo diet was not designed specifically for a diabetic population. 

    It never came up in the interview, but I figure Dr. Runyon eats 40-50 g daily. Still a ketogenic level for most people.


    • LLVLCBlog
      July 25, 2012 | 4:33 am

      Thanks Steve! Yes, Dr. Run eats a ketogenic diet. Good point about Cordain’s plan.

    • Keith Runyan
      September 6, 2012 | 10:59 am

      Just to clarify my position on Paleo vs Low Carb. I first discovered Paleo and tried the diet as written by Dr Cordain. I liked (and still do) the idea that based on anthropologic research, the diet of our ancestors could be determined and used to help guide our modern diet. In agreement with the Paleo recommendations, I do not eat any grains, legumes, starchy vegetables, soft drinks, juices, or sweets. However, I deviate from Paleo by eating some dairy (only butter, cheese, yogurt, and cream) because I found it difficult to get enough fat using just beef tallow, coconut oil, avocado, and tree nuts. The low carb diet recommended by Dr Richard Bernstein calls for 30 grams total carbs per day (6+12+12). I eat about 40 – 50 grams total carbs per day due the larger than average amount of food I eat for my size due to the exercise I am doing. The majority of those carbs come from green vegetables, olives, pickles, and the remainder coming from the foods listed above which do contain small amounts of carbs that add up. I haven’t measured blood ketones, but I am quite sure I am ketogenic as I have had to redefine hypoglycemia. Since being ketogenic, I have no symptoms of hypoglycemia with blood sugars in the high 40’s to 60’s. Presumably this is due to brain adaptation to using ketones. Before starting the ketogenic diet, my goal blood sugar was 100 – 120 mg/dl to give me a safety zone against hypoglycemia. Now on a ketogenic diet, my goal blood sugar is 83 mg/dl and I don’t worry about hypoglycemia nearly as much. In fact, since started a ketogenic diet almost a year ago, I have had two episodes of hypoglycemia with the only symptom being sweating. I have had a number of low blood sugars 45 – 60’s with no symptoms. However, I have had no episodes where my brain function has been impaired (neuroglycopenic symptoms).
      Regarding the Paleo diet and diabetes, I agree Paleo is not designed for diabetes. It did not improve my blood sugar control while on a Paleo diet. However, I disagree about Type 2 diabetics being able to tolerate 180 grams of carbs per day. The carb intake for Type 2’s should be as low as possible down to the 30 grams/day as recommended by Dr Bernstein. Developing Type 2 DM means that person is unable to tolerate carbs and eliminating them is the best route to controlling/curing the diabetes.
      Hope that clarifies things. Keith Runyan, MD

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