XVII International Congress on Nutrition and Metabolism in Renal disease (ICRNM) – by Megan Rossi, University of Queensland PhD student


Lured by the promise of delicate pastries and the finest wines, I submitted an abstract to the biannual XVII International Congress on Nutrition and Metabolism in Renal disease (ICRNM) held in Wurzburg, Germany. One of the perks of doing a PhD is the international travel and below I have recounted some of the highlights from my trip with the hope of stimulating your hunger for research.

Day 1 in Wurzburg, 4th May 2014: 

Arriving at the crack of dawn and feeling the effects of jet lag I felt the only thing that would console me was the indulgent pastries I’d read about on trip adviser. Off in search I went. Within the first kilometer I learnt my first important lesson about Wurzburg, nothing opens before 12noon on Sundays. So there I was roaming the deserted streets of Wurzburg with dwindling spirits (and blood sugar levels). I was considering throwing in the towel when the sweet scent of goodness crossed my path. BINGO! I pleaded with the wholesale bakers to spare me a danish and learnt lesson number two, German’s are suckers for our Aussie accent (I was given four pastries for free!). That was the first of my many pastry experiences in Wurzburg. Pictured below at my top-rated patisserie. 


Day 2-5: As the familiar, yet un-easing sound of my alarm rang it dawned on me that I was there for work. I found my way to the Congress Centrum Wurzburg, where the conference was held, and was warmly welcomed by the aroma of strong coffee and fresh pastry.

The conference delegates included a mix of dietitians/nutritionists, physicians, pharmacists, basic scientists and even psychologists, offering a strong multidisciplinary outlook on all things renal nutrition.

From talking to fellow delegates, one of the striking themes was the lack of renal dietitians in many first world countries. In fact, I was speaking to one physician from Rome, who also wore the “nutritionist” hat in his dialysis unit. Listening to his and other physicians’ devotion to renal nutrition made for an empowering environment, although made me appreciate how lucky we are in Australia to have funded renal dietetic positions (although arguably still not enough).

The conference program included over 50 scientific lectures delivered by highly accomplished experts, providing an un-paralleled opportunity to hear both clinical and scientific perspectives. 

For me, the highlight of the conference included the below themes: (also captured by my ‘promising’ collaging skills)

conference highlights

The role of the gut microbiota (the community of bacteria that populate our large colon)- There is a growing body of evidence suggesting the role of the gut microbiota in both the heightened cardiovascular risk in patients with kidney disease as well as kidney disease progression. Mechanisms include the production of key nephro-vascular toxins as well as leaky GI tracts (known as endotoxemia). This was my number one pick of the conference, although I am biased by the relevance this has to my PhD research (investigating the manipulation of the gut microbiota through pre- and probiotics). 

Vegetarianism in Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)- The pros and cons of vegetarianism in CKD was hotly debated, the pros including the improvement in acidosis and uremic toxin load, against the risk of malnutrition in those patients with limited access to a dietitian. 

Phosphorous additives- The growing commercial use of phosphorous as an additive and its non-mandatory labeling was presented from a public health perspective. This was another interest area of mine, as I am currently investigating the prevalence of phosphorous additives in the Australian food supply, with student Jemma McCutcheon and Dr Katrina Campbell at Princess Alexandra Hospital. Stay tuned for the results of that study.

Taste changes/dysfunction- This was an area I’ve had little experience in, although the data in this area is intriguing and was recently presented at the Dietitian Association of Australia’s national conference by my colleague Emma McMahon.

And the final highlight (much to my surprise) was bringing home the title of the ICRNM 2014 “Best poster presentation”!!

Day 6: Crammed in some successful shopping at Wertheim Village (outlet shopping, 45min bus trip out of Wurzburg) and a 40km bike ride through the local wineries, including Sommerhausen (although this was still not enough to balance the energy- in vs. energy-out equation, thanks to those delightful pastries).

Overall, the ICRNM satisfied my hunger for knowledge (and pastry), and I look forward to the next ICRNM hosted by Okinawa, Japan in 2016…perhaps I will see you there?