Dieticians, Nutritionists, Nutritional Therapists, Nutrition Advisors… who do you go to and who can you trust?
Individuals with these titles have all undergone some kind of nutritional training (we would assume) however, not all titles are equal and not all qualifications are equal. The level of study and qualifications required to respectably use each title differs tremendously. You will find some professionals that have undergone years of further study whereas some have simply signed up to a 2-day course on the internet.
Unfortunately, when it comes to food and being ‘healthy’, a lot of individuals think they know everything because they have done a google search. the difference between someone using Google and trained professionals such as dieticians and nutritionists, is that these professionals have undergone extensive and intensive further education to practice evidence based nutrition.
However in terms of people using various different ‘nutritionist’ titles, it can be difficult to know who to trust and to identify who really knows what they’re talking about!
So who is qualified to give nutritional advice in the UK?
Registered Dietitian (RD)
Registered Dieticians will have completed a minimum of a BSc in Nutrition and Dietetics that is accredited by the British Dietetic Association. Many will undergo further education specialising in different areas in order to treat certain medical conditions. Their practice is based on nutritional science and they typically work within the NHS, in the industry or in research. They are also regulated by the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC).
Registered Nutritionist (ANutr & RNutr)
Associate Registered Nutritionists (ANutr) are recent graduates who require 3 years relevant experience in the field on Nutrition before applying for the title Registered Nutritionist (RNutr). Registered Nutritionists will have a minimum of a BSc and usually an MSc qualification in Nutrition. They will also be members of the government-approved Association for Nutrition (AFN) and practice in an evidence based way, understanding the ethics code of practiced provided by the AFN. AFN membership is only obtained if individuals provide proof of accredited qualifications that meet the specific and rigorous criteria required by the AFN.
Nutritional Therapists will have typically obtained a diploma accredited by the British Association for Nutritional Therapists (BANT). Where Nutritional Therapists differ from Dieticians and Nutritionists, is that their way of practice tends to be a complimentary medicine and is not always evidence based. It is also likely that they do not have a BSc or MSc in Nutrition. Don’t get me wrong there are some good Nutritional Therapists out there just be more weary of their qualifications.
To conclude, if you think you have underlying health issues or are in need of a nutritional plan to cater to certain health problems, you will need to see a dietitian. If you are looking for evidence-based nutritional advice to improve your overall wellbeing you should seek a qualified nutritionist.