The main purpose of our study was to verify the effect of a very-low-protein, low-phosphorus diet, supplemented with essential amino acids and keto analogues and with calcium carbonate, on circulating levels of intact parathyroid hormone (i-PTH) in severe chronic renal failure patients with secondary hyperparathyroidism, not treated with any vitamin D preparation. To this aim, we shifted 21 chronic uremics (12 males, 9 females; age 56 +/- 13 years) with serum creatinine >6.5 mg/dl and i-PTH >150 pg/ml, from a standard low-protein diet (0.6 g/kg/day approximately) to a very-low-protein (0.3 g/kg/day), very-low-phosphorus (5 mg/kg/day) diet supplemented with a mixture of essential amino acids and calcium keto analogues (Ketodiet), calcium carbonate (2-4 g/day), iron, and vitamin B12 preparations. The energy supply of both diets was 30-35 kcal/kg/day. Exclusion criteria were a poor compliance with dietary or supplement prescriptions or signs of autonomic hyperparathyroidism. After 4 +/- 2 months of Ketodiet, the i-PTH serum levels decreased by 49% as a mean (from 441 +/- 233 to 225 +/- 161 pg/ml, p < 0.001); serum phosphorus and alkaline phosphatase decreased, whereas serum calcium increased. The great reduction of serum and urinary urea demonstrated a good compliance with Ketodiet, and no sign of protein malnutrition was observed. These findings confirm that even in severe chronic uremic patients dietary phosphorus restriction and calcium carbonate supplementation lower i-PTH serum levels. This is one of the goals of the dietary treatment that can be safely achieved, provided good compliance both with the dietary prescriptions and with adequate energy and supplement intakes.