When it comes to making positive dietary changes to improve health and wellbeing many people enlist the help of a nutritional health professional, such as a dietitian or a nutritionist. Both dietitians and nutritionists work to support people in making sustainable changes in their diet to achieve optimum nutrition, so what's the difference between the two?
(*nb. this information is written pertaining to practise within New Zealand)
DIETITIAN: 'Dietitian' is a protected term - only health professionals who have met the standards under the Health Practitioners Competency Act (HPCA) 2003 required by the Dietitians Board and have completed both an undergraduate science degree in human nutrition and a post-graduate qualification in dietetics can call themselves a dietitian. This means dietitians have a REALLY thorough understanding of disease processes and how nutrition can affect them. To legally practice in New Zealand, a dietitian must be registered with the Dietitians Board and hold a current practising certificate. In addition, dietitians who complete a regulated prescribing course can become qualified dietitian prescribers for a range of nutritional supplements, special foods, and therapeutic strength vitamins and minerals.
NUTRITIONIST: 'Nutritionist' is not a protected term - there are no specific qualifications or regulatory standards for this profession and therefore anyone can call themselves a nutritionist! This means someone calling themselves a nutritionist could have a PhD in a specialty area of nutrition or they could have no formal training at all. The Nutrition Society does however have a registration programme for nutritionists where a set criteria must be met to become a 'Registered Nutritionist'.
So what does all this mean? There is a place for both dietitians and nutritionists in the world of nutritional health. However, when choosing the right nutritional health professional for your needs be sure to ask what qualifications are held and if the practitioner is registered with either the Dietitians Board or the Nutrition Society to ensure the information given is safe and based upon scientific research.
Until next time,