As March is National Nutrition Month, there will be an onslaught of nutrition articles in the press and on the internet, both credible and non-credible.
It’s hard to know who to trust when looking for accurate information about food and nutrition. Additionally, there are many opportunities for people to spread incorrect information to people, particularly in the area of cancer, where patients can be desperate to use anything which they hope will cure them.
There are certain professionals who are educated and trained to help you navigate the world of food and nutrition.
Dietitian & Nutritionist- what’s the difference?
People often think the term nutritionist and dietitian is interchangeable, however this is not the case. Dietitians may refer to themselves as nutritionists, however not all nutritionists can call themselves dietitians. This is because training to be a registered dietitian (RD) is more extensive and regulated.
According to the Acadamy of Nutrition & Dietetics, registered dietitians must have completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nutrition. These degrees include lectures in diverse subject areas such as microbiology, biochemistry and medical nutrition therapy. Dietitians must also complete a hands-on dietetic internship, where they work in a variety of nutrition settings including community and hospital nutrition, and complete a registration exam. Furthermore, dietitians are required to meet continuous education requirements by completing readings and attending lectures to ensure that their knowledge is up to date. These high standards are set as dietitians are the only nutritional professional allowed to work with patients in the hospital setting.
Unlike dietitians, the education and training requirements to become a nutritionist varying from state to state, which is why “nutritionist” is not a nationally-recognized credential. Some states don’t require any license which means anyone could refer to themselves as a nutritionist without any education or training in the field at all. This is also true for terms such as nutritional coach or nutritional therapist.
While there are some nutritionists who have a good education in nutrition, it is extremely important to know what qualifications someone has before following their advice. For cancer patients in particular, it is important to check the qualifications as incorrect advice may affect how your treatment works, and may reduce your chances of recovery.
For the safest, evidenced based advice, as your doctor to refer you to a dietitian. If you have cancer, consider going to a dietitian who has specialized in oncology.
To find a dietitian in your area click here.