Nutritionist vs Dietician

 

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The terms, Dietitian and Nutritionist, are often used by many in place of each other. There is a lot of overlap in what nutritionists and dieticians do and study and the 2 terms are used interchangeably. However, in reality they are not identical neither are they synonyms.

Main differences between a Nutritionist and a Dietitian revolve around 3 main areas. Their definition, qualification and the legal protection:

Nutritionist

Dietitian

Definition:
Person who has studied nutrition and  examines and evaluates the dietary habits of individuals thereby advising them on  what to eat to stay healthy and the types and quantity of food intake required specifically to increase or decrease their body weight. They are practitioners who have achieved the national standards of healthcare education/a degree that qualify them as dieticians. They can be vital in managing clinical conditions, promoting health and wellness and prevention of diseases.
Qualification:
Studies nutrition and/or nutrition sciences either through a private coursework or a certification, which need not  be approved by any type of board. Studies food, nutrition and dietetics (science of nutrition), through an accredited university and an approved curriculum. Has to complete a rigorous internship and passes a licensure exam to become a registered dietician.
Legal Protection:
Nutritionist  title is not generally protected, meaning that it can be used by anyone, unlike “doctor”, for instance, which requires proof of qualifications. The title of a registered Dietitian is legally protected. Not anyone can call themselves a registered dietitian.

Nutritionists need not be an expert in nutrition and dietetics and definitely not well equipped to deal with medical issues of their clients. Their knowledge is considered limited with respect to dealing with patients because of a lack of recognised formal education or degree in the respective area of study. They can practise as nutritionists with a fair amount of knowledge on nutrition and nutrient deficiencies. They can also possess a self proclaimed title probably based on their self study in the sphere of nutrition or through experience on the same.

In India, to become a professional Nutritionist there is no need to obtain any  license for practice. They do not need to meet the requirements to use the titles- Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). A nutritionist can upgrade herself to become a dietician by studying the required dietetics course and getting a license.

In some countries, some states may require nutritionists to obtain an occupational license from a Board of Nutrition, while other states allow individuals to practice as nutritionists without any previous education, training or work experience.

Dietitian’s are qualified professionals who are experts in Nutrition sciences. They would have undergone rigorous academic and professional preparation. They are professionals with a licence to practice. They are specialised in nutrition for different categories of people, especially clinical patients and usually placed in hospitals or health care centres. They are licensed to guide patients regarding the right kinds of nutritional intake and are also qualified to give tube feedings. If you are seeking medical nutrition therapy, it is always advisable to consult a registered Dietitian.

For example, a person recovering from an accident would have different requirements from someone suffering from cancer. Dietitian’s can use their knowledge on the properties of food, in diseases treatment and prevention.To practice as a Dietitian, a professional license and recognition from relevant authority/governing body is required. Indian Dietetic Association (IDA) is the authoritative body that takes care of licensing and membership of practicing dieticians in India.

‘All Registered Dieticians are Nutritionists but not all Nutritionists are Registered Dieticians.’

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