Regular counselling on diet and lifestyle offers significant benefits to people with chronic kidney disease, according to new Queensland University Technology research.
Dietitian Katrina Campbell, who graduated with her PhD from QUT yesterday, monitored the diets of 62 pre-dialysis patients at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital (RB&WH) and supported them with regular contact as part of her thesis.
Dr Campbell said depending on the patient's individual situation, a dietitian could intervene by suggesting things such as increasing the amount of physical activity, modifying recipes, increasing high-energy food, controlling protein intake or having regular small meals.
"People who suffer severe chronic kidney disease clearly need support with their diets," she said. "When their kidneys function at less than 30 per cent they often lose their appetites, which can lead to malnutrition and compound their health problems."
Dr Campbell said the participants in the study ranged for 40 to 80 years old and their kidney conditions had been affected by primary disorders such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
She said patients needed support because the dietary approach to chronic kidney disease often was quite different from what had been recommended for the primary conditions.
"In the study, the patients received individual counselling on nutrition and lifestyle through regular contact, either in a clinic or by telephone,'' Dr Campbell said.
She hoped an integration of dietetic services into the treatment of chronic kidney patients would follow as her findings were published in international medical and nutrition journals.
With chronic kidney disease on the rise, people managing health budgets could be expected to factor in the benefits.
Kidney Health Australia figures show kidney failure is the seventh most frequent cause of death in Australia and exceeds road deaths, suicide, and breast cancer in number. More than 40 people die each day from kidney failure in Australia.
While kidney disease has doubled over the last two decades, death rates from almost all other chronic conditions are falling substantially.
At the age of 25, Dr Campbell is leaving for England in October to become a lecturer in nutrition and dietetics at the King's College London.
She began her doctorate studies soon after graduating with honours from QUT with a Bachelor of Science degree and joining RB&WH as a dietitian.
A career in dietetics was an easy choice.
"I grew up in big family that values healthy eating," she said. "At high school I was good at science, and when I learned I could combine that with my love of food there was no question where my future lay."
Dr Campbell said the "real world" hospital setting for her research was seen very favourably by King's College London when she was recruited there.
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