What is the difference between a Nutritionist and a Dietitian?
Whether you are looking for professional support with your diet & lifestyle to pursue intuitive eating, optimise your chances of conception, regulate your cycle, get ready for IVF or need guidance on how to manage a clinical condition such as PCOS then it is imperative you are getting the most up to date advice from a qualified healthcare professional. But how do you know who to turn to for help?
Since the rise in social media use we have access to some fantastically qualified (and not so qualified) healthcare professionals, especially in the area of nutrition. We are bombarded with self-proclaimed nutrition experts, who in reality may have limited knowledge and offer no protection to the public (aka you). Understandably, you might find yourself confused with the differences between dietitian, nutritionist and nutritional therapists. Indeed, with the rise in alternative ‘nutrition therapists’, it is important to identify the difference between who is qualified to provide you with expert nutrition advice and who has emerged from informal courses which are not recognised by the Irish State.
As a Registered Dietitian in Ireland (and having qualified and worked as a Dietitian in the UK), I have unfortunately come across many clients, patients, family members and friends who have received improper and often dangerous (and expensive) advice at the hands of unqualified individuals. So what should we be looking for and how do we find the right nutritional professional when looking for support?
Let's have a look at some of the key differences:
- Have the protected title of “Registered Dietitian”, meaning that only qualified practitioners can use that title
- Have a BSc. (Hons) Human Nutrition & Dietetics or a related MSc in Dietetics.
- Are the only nutrition professionals to be regulated by law
- Are governed by an ethical code to ensure they work to the highest standard
- Are the only nutrition professionals that can be employed by the HSE
- Are the only health professionals qualified to assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems at an individual and wider public health level.
- Work in various settings such as hospitals, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, government and Non Government Organisations (NGOs).
Nutritionists or Public Health Nutritionists:
- Do not have a title protected by law, so people with different levels of training and knowledge may refer to themselves as a “Nutritionist”
- Can register with the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists as a “Registered Nutritionist”, only if they hold the appropriate qualifications (BSc or MSc in Human Nutrition, Public Health Nutrition, or Nutritional Sciences and professional practice)
- Are qualified to provide information about food and healthy eating
- Often work in roles including public health, health improvement, health policy, local and national government, and in education or research
- Cannot register with any body
- Are not regulated
- Trained by differing lengths of courses, anywhere from just a few weeks
- Provide nutritional advice in private clinic settings
- Offer nutrition tests such as food intolerance testing which are not supported by scientific evidence
- May offer treatment such as supplements, detox diets, and food exclusions which are not based on robust scientific evidence
TIPS FOR LOOKING FOR A NUTRITION EXPERT
- Ask about their background and qualifications
- Ask your local GP, hospital or primary care centre for a referral for a dietitian (public or private)
- Find a dietitian who specialises in the area you are looking for support with, for example fertility health/disordered eating/Irritable bowel syndrome/Coeliac disease etc
- Have a look at the ‘Find A Dietitian section on indi.ie for a list of private Registered Dietitians in Ireland
- Remember, only individuals with the correct qualifications can call themselves a ‘Registered Dietitian’, so looking for someone with this title is a good start as there is no regulation regarding nutritionists or nutrition therapists!
For more information have a look HERE
If you are looking for a dietitian to support you build a healthy relationship with food, combat binge eating and emotional eating, manage a hormonal condition such as PCOS, regulate your cycles, increase your potential success with IVF, or gain a greater understanding of what you should be eating at every stage of your fertility journey, we can help you!
Contact Jess to schedule a discovery call.
Written by Lorna Haydon BSc (Hons) & Jess Willow, RD & CIEC, Owner of Willow Nutrition LTD.