There are SO MANY voices in the realm of nutrition. Everyone has “the next best diet” or the “right” way to eat. More interesting than anything is how so many different fields that don’t directly specialize in nutrition tend to give nutrition advice like trainers at the gym, chiropractors, the crazy health nut who only reads popsugar and never actually reads the research, etc. Of all these,I think the biggest confusion for consumers occurs between the distinction between nutritionists vs dietitians.
Both dietitians and nutritionists claim to have a specialized knowledge in nutrition, but they are truly very different in nature. For example, dietitians must:
Have at least a bachelor’s in their field in order to practice
Complete, with an established level of proven competence, a certain number of supervised practice hours in a clinical, community, and food service management setting, prior to graduating
Pass a national registration exam upon completion of graduation
Apply for and maintain credentials through a nationally recognized organization, the Commision of Nutrition and Dietetics (CDR)
Complete a certain amount of continuing education units every 5 years that requires the dietitian to stay up to date on latest research and most proven evidence-based practices
Maintain licensure or certification in their respective state and adhere to their specific scope of practice
On the other hand, there are no established credentials for nutritionists and truly anyone can deem themselves a “nutritionist.” There are no established competencies that they must follow or degrees they must hold. While some nutritionists are truly educated and do have sound knowledge of how the body functions, others do not have a solid foundation in anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, medical nutrition therapy, or metabolism like all dietitians must obtain.
“That’s great, but what does a dietitian actually do, and how/why can they help me?”
So glad you asked!
In short, a dietitian is a medical professional that uses the practice of medical nutrition therapy to conduct extensive nutrition assessments on all patients and clients to assess anything from micro-nutrient (vitamin and mineral) deficiencies to present factors that put patients at risk for chronic health concerns. They have specialized training in preventing diseases through lifestyle choices and treating diseases that have already been diagnosed by using comprehensive approaches that consider medical and social history, lab values, food allergies or food intolerance etc. We are medical professionals found in the community, hospitals, schools, clinics, food industry, and private practices that work to educate and empower people to live their most fully functioning and healthy life.
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