kempners diet

Kempner, medical doctor and research scientist, is the father of modern day diet therapy and creator of the Rice Diet. All who have followed in his footsteps, including Nathan Pritikin, Dean Ornish, Neal Barnard, Caldwell Esselstyn, and myself, owe homage to this man and his work.

Kempner’s Rice Diet program began at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina in 1939. The treatment was a simple therapy of white rice, fruit, juice, and sugar, and was reserved for only the most seriously ill patients. Although low-tech, the benefits of the Rice Diet far exceed those of any drug or surgery ever prescribed for chronic conditions, including coronary artery disease, heart and kidney failure, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, and obesity.

Originally used for only short time periods and under close supervision due to concerns about nutritional deficiencies, subsequent research proved the Rice Diet to be safe and nutritionally adequate for the vast majority of patients.

A major breakthrough occurred by accident in 1942 when one of Dr. Kempner’s patients, a 33-year-old North Carolina woman with chronic glomerulonephritis (kidney disease) and papilledema (eye disease) failed to follow his instructions. Because of Dr. Kempner’s heavy German accent she misunderstood his instructions to return in two weeks, and after two months, she finally returned, with no signs of deficiency, but rather with robust health. The woman had experienced a dramatic reduction of her blood pressure, from 190/120 to 124/84 mmHg, resolution of eye damage (retinal hemorrhages and papilledema), and a noticeable decrease in heart size.

After this experience Dr. Kempner began treating his patients for extended periods of time, and expanded the indications from only serious troubles (glomerulonephritis and malignant hypertension) to patients with relatively minor illnesses, such as routine hypertension (160/100 mmHg), headaches, chronic fatigue, chest pains, edema, xanthoma, pseudo tumor cerebri, and psoriasis.

Walter Kempner’s Medical Records

During his career, fellow professionals wanted Dr. Kempner to set up randomized, controlled studies. However in studies designed this way, half of the patients are treated and half go untreated. His medical ethics would not allow him to deny his proven diet therapy to anyone; therefore, he declined. Furthermore, he correctly pointed out that each patient served as his own control.

Dr. Kempner documented the benefits of his treatments by tracking their changes in cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and body weight, as well as with pictures. For example, his records showed that 93% of patients with an elevated cholesterol benefited with an average reduction from 273 mg/dL before treatment to 177 mg/dL after. These reductions in cholesterol are greater than those usually seen with powerful statin drugs, and without the costs and risks. His numbers also showed how a high-carbohydrate diet improved blood sugars and often cured type-2 diabetes.

The following are typical examples of the benefits Dr. Kempner observed from the Rice Diet:

Reducing Massive Obesity: In one article the results of 106 massively obese patients treated as outpatients with the Rice Diet, exercise, and motivational enhancement under daily supervision were reported. The average weight loss was 63.9 kg (141 pounds). Normal weight was achieved by 43 of the patients.

Curing Severe Hypertension. In the beginning, Dr. Kempner treated only patients with near-fatal conditions, like malignant hypertension (blood pressures in the 220/120 mmHg range). In this emergency condition people often suffered from heart and kidney failure, and eye damage (with retinal hemorrhages, exudates, and papilledema). Today such patients are treated with powerful medications and laser eye surgery, with far greater risks and costs, and far fewer benefits. The safe and effective Rice Diet treatment for eye damage and kidney damage has been largely forgotten.

Stopping Hemorrhages and Exudates. The eyes are a window to the condition of the blood vessel system and major organs throughout the body. By looking (with an ophthalmoscope) into the back of the eye (retina) a physician can actually see ongoing damage, which is not limited to the eye, but is also happening in the kidneys and all other tissues. Photos of the retina show how the Rice Diet stops the bleeding (hemorrhages) and leaking (exudates) from blood vessels. This serves as a dramatic demonstration of the body’s ability to heal given the supportive environment of a healthy diet.

Reversing Heart Disease. Narrowing of heart (coronary) arteries due to atherosclerosis (a result of the Western diet) causes chest pains (angina) and changes in the electrocardiogram (EKGs showing inverted “T” waves). The Rice Diet relieves chest pains and corrects EKG abnormalities. In other words, the Rice Diet can cure common heart disease, which affects more than half of Americans. Modern-day heart doctors routinely prescribe heart surgery for blocked arteries, with far greater costs and risks, and far fewer benefits.

Treating Heart and Kidney Failure. In late stages of disease, the Western diet causes the failure of major organs, including the heart, kidneys, liver, and brain. Enlargement of the heart, as seen on a chest x-ray, is a classic sign of heart failure. The Rice Diet causes enlarged (failing) hearts to revert to normal size and function. Kidney function also dramatically improves, as does the patient in general.

The Rice Diet Components

*Dry rice of 250 to 350 grams daily forms the basis of the diet. Any kind of rice is used as long as it contains no milk or salt. The rice is boiled or steamed in plain water or fruit juice, without salt, milk or fat. (One cup of dry white rice weighs about 200 grams, and contains about 13 grams of protein, 150 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram of fat, and 700 calories.)

*Calorie intake is usually 2,000 to 2,400 calories daily. Intake varies based upon the patient’s condition: underweight people are fed more calories, and vice versa.

*Fruit and fruit juices are allowed.

*Dried fruits can be used as long as nothing but sugar has been added.

*White sugar may be used as desired (ad libitum); on average a patient takes in about 100 grams daily (400 calories) but, if necessary (to maintain body weight), as much as 500 grams (2000 calories) daily has been used.

*No avocados, dates, or nuts.

*No tomato or vegetable juices.

*Supplementary vitamins are added in the following amounts: vitamin A 5,000 units, vitamin D 1,000 units, thiamine chloride 5 mg, riboflavin 5 mg, niacinamide 25 mg, calcium pantothenate 2 mg. (However, none of the Rice Diet patients during five months of treatment showed any signs (epithelial, neural or metabolic) to make one suspect any vitamin deficiency.

*Adaptation to the diet takes about two months.

*Exercise is encouraged. Bed rest is only advised with severe conditions.

*Water intake is restricted in some severely ill patients to less than 1.5 liters (6 cups) a day to prevent water intoxication and electrolyte imbalances.

*A few patients with kidney disease cannot tolerate the diet because of their inability to retain minerals.

*Once the patient’s health has returned, then small amounts of non-leguminous vegetables, potatoes, lean meat or fish (all prepared without salt or fat) may be added. However, if these additions result in adverse consequences (elevated blood pressure, enlargement of the heart, abnormal EKG changes, worsening kidney or eye conditions, etc.), then the basic Rice Diet, without modification, must be continued.

*A physician competent in diet therapy should follow anyone in need of the Rice Diet. Sicker patients need closer supervision.

The nutrient breakdown is about 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day (depending on the patient’s body weight): 95% carbohydrate, 4 to 5% protein (20 to 25 grams), 2 to 3% fat (rice is relatively high in the essential fat linoleic acid), 140 milligrams of calcium, and 150 milligrams of sodium daily. For more rapid and effective weight loss, the calories are restricted.

Why White Rice And Table Sugar?

One reason Kempner chose rice was because he believed that rice proteins were easily assimilated and there was no concern about getting sufficient amounts of the essential amino acids. (This adequacy and completeness of protein is not limited to rice, and is true for all starches, including corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.) He chose rice rather than another starch because in his day, nearly half of the world’s population consumed large amounts of rice (sometimes rice made up 80% to 90% of their diet).

White rice, as opposed to brown whole-grain rice, was used because it was considered more palatable to the general public and was more readily available. Plain white rice contains about 8% of calories as protein. The addition of simple sugars brings the protein content of the Rice Diet down to 5% or fewer of total calories. The body only needs a small amount of protein daily (fewer than 5% of calories from food). The liver and kidneys must process and excrete any protein consumed beyond the basic requirements, causing extra work and often organ damage.

The addition of white table sugar adds calories without protein and fat. Fruits and juices are also high in sugar (carbohydrate) calories and low in fat and protein. The primary benefits of the Rice Diet are accomplished by easing the workload on compromised tissues and organs by providing them with clean-burning energy from carbohydrates and avoiding common dietary poisons such as salt, fat, cholesterol, and animal protein. In such a supportive environment the body’s healing powers can outpace the damages once caused by unhealthy foods. Dr. Kempner added multivitamins, which may be necessary because of all the refined foods served. Using whole foods (specifically the McDougall starch-based diet), rather than white rice and sugar, provides all necessary vitamins and minerals. No supplements are recommended other than vitamin B12.

The Rice Diet Today

After nearly 70 years, in 2002 Duke University severed its relationship with the Rice Diet. The Rice Diet program, however, continued to run independently until the fall of 2013 under the direction of Robert Rosati, MD, when it closed for business. Kitty Rosati (with her husband, Robert) has published several national best selling books on the Rice Diet.

elon, MD, the Rice Diet’s former medical director, has joined with business interests to reestablish the Rice Diet, and they plan to open an outpatient facility in Durham, NC beginning in February of 2014.

One of Dr. Kempner’s closest collaborators, Barbara Newborg, MD, recently published an extensive biography on the father of modern day diet therapy, Walter Kempner and the Rice Diet: Challenging Conventional Wisdom.

The McDougall Diet vs. The Rice Diet

Walter Kempner, MD was very influential on my career. His published work showed me the power of diet therapy and that nutritional deficiencies do not occur with simple plant-based diets (even with the addition of lots of sugar). Even before I was born, Dr. Kempner had disproven concepts that are still held as true by most medical doctors today, such as, “diet has little to do with heart disease,” “additional protein improves health,” and “carbohydrates cause diabetes.”

I find myself recommending the Rice Diet several times a year to the few patients I see who are on the verge of complete heart or kidney failure. Otherwise, I recommend the McDougall Diet (a starch-based diet with fruits and non-starchy-vegetables along with some salt and sugar for flavorings) to almost all of my patients.

No apology needs to be made for serving pasta and marinara sauce, bean burritos, or rice and Chinese vegetables. The diet I recommend, the McDougall Diet, is for the living. The Rice Diet is one that I reserve for the “nearly dead.” I am grateful every day for Walter Kempner’s contributions to medical science. Unfortunately, because profits, rather than patients’ welfare, dictate common medical practice, diet therapy remains unappreciated and practically unknown.

McDougall Foundation

Our non-profit foundation has funded a study on the dietary treatment of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) with the Oregon Health & Science University. Our second ongoing project is the measurement of artery wall thickness changes that occur as a result of the McDougall Diet using ultrasound measurements (CIMT).

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opyright (c) 2015 John A. McDougall, M.D., All Rights Reserved.

41 Replies

  • An interesting reading after reading LCHF diet. I feel more unsure what is good for us. It would appear we should desist parroting anti ADA slogans and start thinking nothing is certain about diet and feel that our body reactions to food is most intelligent of all human intelligence.

  • Why not criticize ADA diet? We don't PARROT. We back our talks with real numbers. Many here just rant (or parrot OPINIONS with no citation) against LCHF, despite being shown better results than ADA's diet.

    If you can talk against something that works (LCHF), we can surely talk against ADA that doesn't work when compared to LCHF. ADA takes huge money from drug and food industry and only the industry has benefited.

    ADA's diet is doing more damage than good. We are very sure what is good for us as we are not trying to confuse anyone by talking of so many diets. We talk based on what we have lived by and what we are living by. All those who switch to LCHF have an experience of ADA diet as well as LCHF.

    Might as well feed his high rice diet to a diabetic and see the readings on meter. In two months (adaptation period) the patient would be running to ER :)

  • The answer to your question why not criticise ADA can be answered as-Unless the criticism reaches the ears of ADA you are only wasting your time in highlighting here. ADA will not change their decision merely because one indian is criticising..

    Regarding rest of your writing you have been saying these since ages without any effect.

  • Criticism of ADA is for highlighting to diabetics "understand" and who switch to LCHF and benefit. It's not for ADA followers or preachers.

    Four people have been defending ADA since ages and yet people not listening is what is resulting the LCHF followers to grow. I have been here for around 7 months. That's not ages.

    Why do you feel upset about ADA being criticized? Actually few guys here have been terribly upset that LCHF is helping diabetics and they even have tried scaremongering which failed.

    It's not ONE any more. It was so when you (along with few others) were fighting against ANUP.

  • I thought you are here for a long time looking to your blogging style and referring to blogs more than a year. Any way thanks for your clarification that you are here only 7 months ago

    I am not upset at all. you can continue if you feel it is useful to control others and their views. your latest blog was 2 am today ,I felt you are practicaly on your lap top night and day which is not good for you. you should sleep well and attend to reply at a fairly comfortable time.

    sorry if you mistake my reply.

  • (1) No one is controlling anyone's views.

    (2) Do not spend so much time analyzing me, my footprints, my profile etc. Not worth it. Focus on the content. I didn't even spent a minute analysis coolj's style, area of interest, language etc.

    Never tried to find the connection between a user "patliputrac" ( ) and some one else here. I focus on posts.

    (3) I don't walk 2 hrs a day. Sleeping at ~2 and next reply at after 11 still give a 9 hr break doesn't it?

  • ragivji,

    that was for seriously ill patients then-

    "The treatment was a simple therapy of white rice, fruit, juice, and sugar, and was reserved for only the most seriously ill patients."

    usual diabetics are not indicated.?


    it looks that the diet works through a scheme of reducing work load in organs and a reduction of the fats stored here and there..

    ".......including coronary artery disease, heart and kidney failure, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, and obesity."

    a for diabetes ,

    it looks like the fat removal from pancreas,

    something similar to the 600 kalorie newcastle trial.

    here the body finding no fats arriving from diet begins destroying stored fats.this may be the major advantage that culminating in all the other benefits.

    but then one question remains.

    it may work ,then ,only in people in whose body the carbs to fat conversion is low.

    i think above 50 percent persons fall in this category.

    only experts in nutrition and physiology can throw some light.

    but no such person comes to the forum.

    good luck

  • Mr indiacratus

    The diet is detailed in the article itself.. Regarding other matters, at present I have no comments to make except that the 33years old lady is stated to have returned with robust health from her poor health.What interested me is that the diet appears to handle plethora of ailments such as kidney heart etc., including bp which is also claimed by using ketogenic which there is enormous risk of getting into KDA if there is no insulin and there appears to be no way to know if our pancreas is completely dead or some life is left in it to produce some insulin. Although a blogger says one can check this by repeatedly checking lab report but is still is silent if getting into ketogenic diet should or should not be under medical supervision.

  • dear ragivji,

    it is possible to give contradictory interpretations to a phenomenon .[but the world itself is consistent]

    in medicine ,for instance, in the 18th century,:

    suppose a person is having some itching like ailment on his skin.

    a dilute acid like vinegar being applied- cures it.

    a dilute alkali like lime water also cures it.

    contradictory medicines can surprise people.

    but we in the era after the 19th century ,

    after the microbes and Louis Pasteur

    will easily explain:

    he had an infection on the skin.

    the germs were killed by both acid and alkali.

    the particle hypothesis and wave theory ,

    both works for light .

    so we need not be surprised if contradictory solutions arrive in medicine.

    only thing is, in course of time , when more and more data pours in ,

    we must have the the ability to reject one and accept the other or construct a third one.

    the first sentence above is from a famous science philosopher of the 20th century .the rest are mine.

    good luck

  • I support the contention that same goal can be reached through different routes . So insisting that only one path is correct and others are wrong,is neither proper or logical.

  • agreed ,

    on condition that when the routes are comparable we go for the better route.

    rarely only ,

    we are unable to determine which path is better.

    Hans Reichenbach made the following

    ---it is possible to give contradictory interpretations to a phenomenon .[but the world by itself is consistent]---

    in a deeper philosophical sense than i have described .

    i never understood it .

    but my pseudo understanding is the classical one and is very clear and simple and can be applied to human body and medicine.that we can interpret the body in different ways--

    right or wrong:

    i look upon Ayurveda and modern medicine on this basis.

    good luck

  • My thinking is some what different.When several paths are available, the choice is made by the individual depending on many aspects and factors. Eg. our understanding about different routes,availability of resources,means and desire to follow a particular path. Understanding is dependent upon our perception,knowledge,experience as well as beliefs,tradition,and our inner fear versus determination etc.

    As far as human body is concerned, its very complicated. It is extremely difficult to predict response how it will react to a stimuli. A person in different situation will react differently to same or similar stimulus.

    I am sorry that i am not commenting on the post,as i do not read long posts, though i have read in detail what Dr. Neal Bernard.Dr. Mcdougall and,has to say about high starch diet.

  • agreed,

    please come often

    good luck

  • One lady's case convinced you about this diet? Great.

    As for ketogenic diet, it is not to be under medical supervision. No one does it that way for sure as far as I know.

  • No .there is no question of my getting convinced.I only said it interested me. Regarding your clarification that ketogenic diet does not require medical supervision I accept your clarification as satisfying my doubt.

  • "a for diabetes ,

    it looks like the fat removal from pancreas,

    something similar to the 600 kalorie newcastle trial."

    Newcastle was 800kcal not 600kcal.

  • @ragivrao and meetu,cscon.. maybe the rice diet was not meant for diabetics. but my other observation is also as follows., mashedup rice with( buttermilk in large quantities)., also doesnot spike b.s as much as solid rice. whenver i feel like i keep eating rice with buttermilk and i feel comforatable. may be rice in liquid form is not so dangerous as properly cooked and served as solids. its worth trying by anyone.(, majjiga in telugu)

  • How many grams and what's total carb intake?

  • Mr Sridhar1

    I wish to reply since you have put my name. If you are from costal karnataka you will find poor people specially who work hard as labourers just drink a liquefied cooked rice (popularly known as GANJI) a tumler ful or two prepared with just water and a pinch of salt and get so much satisfied that after this lunch they even cut firewood etc., for four to five hours. However they are healthy but may not be diabetics or heart patients.

  • @rajivrao., thank u sir. i am from AP

  • may be a katora of rice(small) should not be more than 50 grams. but quite fillinbg. and it doesnot spike.but make buttermilk large.

  • that is the dry weight of rice. so cooked may be around 100gms rice.

  • just one moment i will measure and come back.

  • around 75 gms of dry rice. so it may be 0.8Xsay80=64gm carbs per serving of that part of day.

  • Are you covering them with drugs? Watch you A1C

  • No meetu no drugs as of now. even met i am avoiding.

  • again if i eat 2 rotis b.s jumps to 180+. again sam amount of rice b.s jumps. with buttermilk i didnot observe b.s jumping so high. yes it goes to 165 max. but not 180+.

    may be my observation could have flawed., but i am strongly convinced about the readings and satiety involved is different. if i eat only veg and butter and cheese., well its a dfferent story.

  • Well, 160 is high for me :)

  • i knew it :)

  • Well, that's why i said in my earlier reply -- watch your A1C, even without knowing readings :)

  • Hi sridhar1,

    Why not you use Long Wheat (LW) instead of rice in the said diet (mashedup with buttermilk in large quantities) for a few months and afterwards try again eating 2 or even 3 rotis & see whether b.s jumps to 180+ or not. I hope it will not.

    Please give a try.

  • sir., even wheat cooked as rice and eaten with buttermilk once gave similar result. right now., today i had rice nd buttermilk at 12:30 and at 13:30 b.s was 156 and now 119 at 15:30.

    i wanted to try long wheat but i could not get in my locality. After reading your story i wanted to try lwm diet., very soon i shall be visiting local gunj(market) to try it. i was planning to go on saturday.

    Thank you sir for writing to me and congrats once again for your results and contribution for diabetics.

  • Hi sridhar1,

    I am talking about & interested in long-term scenario. Even half a dozen days of LW instead of rice may not show any difference; LW will show result as railway line change course.

  • and meetu as i told earlier you are totally adapted and is no problem for you. me too adaptiiiiiiiiiiiingggggggggg (taking a a long time ) and ok i am getting grips. but not full fledged.

  • Wonder if I also should try this rice curd formula.?

    Kindly give some more details.What about Dinner,Breakfast?


  • sir., as a trial one can attempt. if u r following lchf., then no need to do attempts. but for variety's sake you can try. take ordinary rice may be 50 gms or so. cook as usual.,then make buttermilk as usual mix both rice and buttermilk dilute buttermilk 1:0.5 to 1:2 as per your choice with water. .add salt. eat as usual with your favourite curries,pickles as usual.

    might work for some, may not for others. (one friend was telling me bcos you r filling the stomach with water also your b.s is not shooting up. may be that was one reason. but i am not interested in that part of science. when one gets satiety of food, it helps)

  • Ok you could be right but did you follow up with checking your BS at home?

    Any satiety can be be achieved by many other methods ,too.

    I want to start this but you must give some measurable result.

  • No arun. i found curd and rice is a bad combo. and as you told brown rice or once polished rice with minimum husk may be better with butter milk.

  • @doctorap and arun., Dear sirs., that was an experiment to myself. kindly excuse me if it fails in others.

  • Oh, that may be an isolated case.!

    Even your judgement may be biased.

    This forum for the diabetic women and men in general need proven facts.

    Nobody may like to experiment. Thanks, Sir.

  • thank u sir

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