We’re all fairly well accustomed with the use of technology and the internet nowadays (unless you’re of an Amish affiliation). And, if you’re like me it’s probable you’ve spent an abundance of time aimlessly looking at stuff on the web. If so, you may have stumbled across posts similar to this.

Today you learned you’re a nutritionist, right?

While it’s entirely possible a self-proclaimed nutritionist – often one of those people that has completed an online course and now “understands” all aspects of nutrition (oh hai, Gillian McKeith) – is feeding you some unfounded bullshit, it’s about time we recognise that there are credible professionals besides just dietitians working within the field of nutrition.

*Let’s commence the [minor] verbal rampage*

The Dietitian:

  • In the UK, training to become a dietitian usually requires the completion of an accredited four-year undergraduate degree in dietetics, or nutrition and dietetics. It’s also possible to do a two-year postgraduate course in dietetics.
  • Most commonly associated with the clinical environment (i.e. NHS and private practice), dietitians are also present in industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, non-government organisations and national and local government.
  • But what does a dietitian do?
    • Dietitians use the science of nutrition to devise eating plans for patients to treat medical conditions (this is key!) e.g. coeliac disease.
    • Generally working as part of a team, caring for people in hospital or in the community, dietitians assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level.

The Registered Nutritionist (otherwise presumed a hoax):

  • Unfortunately, unlike the title of ‘Dietitian’, the title ‘Nutritionist’ is not protected by statute. However (thankfully), nutritionists in the UK are governed by the Association for Nutrition (AfN), the voluntary regulator for registered nutritionists.
  • There are two distinctions for the title ‘Nutritionist’:

Associate Nutritionist (ANutr):

Registered Nutritionist (RNutr):

Associate Nutritionists have the knowledge and understanding of five competency requirements for registration and as graduates are working towards Registered Nutritionist status. Registered Nutritionists provide scientific evidence-based information and guidance about the impacts of food and nutrition on the health and wellbeing* of humans (at an individual or population level) or animals.
To become an ANutr registrants are required to complete a three- or four-year undergraduate degree in nutrition science, a one-year postgraduate course accredited by the AfN or demonstrate (by portfolio) their knowledge and understanding of five core competencies in nutrition. On top of the requirements for registering as an ANutr, becoming a RNutr requires three+ years of practical experience, demonstrating (by portfolio) the practical application of core competencies in nutrition in one of five nutrition specialisms: Nutrition Science, Public Health, Food, Sports & Exercise and Animal Nutrition.
Most ANutr work in public health and nutrition science within the health service, academia and in the commercial sectors (food retail, service and manufacturing) – normally supervised and not normally engaging in wholly independent practice. RNutr work across both human and animal nutrition at an individual and population level and their work is often international in scope. Many RNutr work at a senior level in public health and nutrition science within the health service, academia and in the commercial sectors. Some RNutr work in government or charities in health improvement and advocacy, in agricultural and animal feeds, in equine science, and in the media and in elite sports and exercise.

Ultimately – not to discredit the enormity of the difference – both professions are founded on the provision of scientific evidence-based information regarding food and nutrition to benefit the health of a population. However, the notable distinction between a nutritionist and dietitian is that the former are only qualified to provide information for the development and maintenance of a healthy lifestyle via food and nutrition but not the treatment of clinical conditions*. Therefore, if you’re concerned about a clinical condition that requires specialist dietary treatment and advice, consult a dietitian. And, regardless, when seeking advice from a nutritionist beware of their credibility and expertise – finding a Registered Nutritionist or Associate Nutritionist is as simple as clicking here.