Secondary hyperparathyroidism (HPT) was evaluated in 157 patients with chronic renal failure (CRF). It was noted that HPT developed early in CRF at a time when plasma calcium and phosphorous were within normal limits. As creatinine clearance decreased below 80 mL/m, there was a significant decrease in plasma calcitriol and a slow and progressive significant increment in plasma parathyroid hormone (PTH). The effect of dietary intake of calcium and phosphorous was evaluated in these patients with early renal failure (ERF). They were divided into two groups. Group A was placed on a protein- and phosphorous-restricted diet (10 days) followed by a daily phosphorous-load diet (10 days). Group B had similar sequential diets plus a calcium supplement throughout the study. Dietary protein and phosphorous restriction resulted in an amelioration of the HPT only in the group of patients receiving calcium supplementation. The phosphate-load diet resulted in worsening of HPT in both groups. In summary, a deficit of calcitriol occurs early in CRF, which in turn leads to a significant increase in PTH. Phosphorous restriction, together with calcium supplementation, ameliorated the HPT of patients with ERF.