From the Rice Diet webpage, accessed 8/2013:
In 1934 as a doctor at Duke Hospital, Dr. Walter Kempner starting treating patients with malignant hypertension (very high blood pressure) and kidney disease with what he called "The Rice Diet" when there was no other treatment available anywhere. He gave it the name as patients usually ate a bowl of white rice at every meal. It became obvious to Dr. Kempner that the prevention and treatment of these diseases would be best treated with a no salt added diet. Dr. Kempner found out very early that the low fat content of the diet also enhanced weight loss. When Dr. Kempner tried to have patients maintain their weight by increasing portion size and adding sugars to foods, patients still lost weight. They just couldn't eat enough calories with so little fat in the diet. The program has continued over the years with the same philosophy of a low-sodium, low-fat diet.
In the 1930's and 40's, people that were diagnosed with illnesses such as high blood pressure and kidney disease were offered no hope for long-term survival. These diseases were considered lethal. Dr. Kempner experimented with animal tissue for many years and began to treat human patients in 1939. He began to see unprecedented results starting with a woman who reversed her kidney disease in a few months time and another who was comatose with malignant hypertension who regained alertness. There were no other drugs or treatments available other than this diet.
Dr. Kempner went on to research and publish revolutionary results on the Rice Diet's dramatic beneficial effect not only on kidney disease and hypertension, but on cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure and diabetes. He retired in 1992 in his 90th year (as Dr. Kempner would say) and he passed away in 1997.