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What is the Difference Between a Dietician, A Nutritionist & a Nutritional Therapist?

By the very fact you are reading this article, I know you are someone who is motivated to invest in your health. To do this you are right in thinking you need to find a reliable, trustworthy, scientific source of information. When researching nutrition advice, you will likely have encountered the titles Nutritionist, Dietician and Nutritional Therapist and found yourself wondering what the difference is between them and who is best qualified to meet your needs. The below is a succinct, subjective guide to help you make that choice by clearly outlining the roles of each profession.

Nutritionist

What is a Nutritionist?

Scope Nutritionists provide 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) (AfN, 2021). To be a Registered Associate Nutritionist, you must be a competent, qualified nutrition professional who meets their rigorously applied standards for scientifically sound evidence-based nutrition, and its use in practice. Regulation Association for Nu trition (AfN). The UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists is the only register of qualified Nutritionists recognised by Public Health England, NHS choices, and NHS careers. The title of Nutritionist is not legally protected so it’s vital that when choosing a Nutritionist that you ensure they are registered with the Association for Nutrition.    Education and training Registered Nutritionists can hold one of two titles:
  1. Registered Associate Nutritionists (ANutr) are qualified to provide evidence-based information with a minimum of 3 years of undergraduate education (many go onto complete Masters).
  2. A Registered Nutritionist (RNutr) carries the same qualifications but with an additional minimum 3 years experience (gained within the last 5 years) of evidence-based application of nutrition science in professional practice.
When would you talk to a Nutritionist?  If you would like reliable evidence-based information about food and healthy eating. Registered Nutritionists can use nutritional science, to help you meet your nutritional goals with personalised advice. They use nutrition as a preventative tool to ward off deficiencies and diseases. 

Nutritional Therapist

What is a Nutritional Therapist?

Scope Nutritional Therapists give recommendations on diet and lifestyle, often based on complementary ‘medicine’ recommendations not recognised as valid treatment in conventional medicine (BDA, 2021).  Regulation Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (NCHC) is a voluntary regulator for complementary therapies including: aromatherapy, hypnotherapy, reflexology, reiki sports therapy and nutritional therapy. The title ‘Nutritional Therapist’ is not protected by law so it is important to fully vet the qualifications and experience of your therapist. Education and training A Nutritional Therapist does not need to have any formal nutrition training but qualification typically includes: a distance learning, online or short course, a diploma or a 3-year undergraduate degree in nutrition therapy accredited by the Nutritional Therapy Council/CNHC as meeting the National Occupational Standards for nutritional therapy.  When would you talk to a Nutritional Therapist? When you wish to investigate alternative and complementary medicine. 

Dietician

What is a Dietician?

Scope Dietitians are qualified and regulated health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems at an individual and wider public-health level (BDA, 2021). Regulation  Healthcare Professional’s Council (HCPC) is the statutory regulator for 16 health care professions including dieticians. The title of ‘Dietician’ is protected by law and an individual must be registered with the healthcare professional’s council to use it. Education and training To be a dietician you must have BSc Hons in Dietetics (or a masters in Dietetics). When would you talk to a Dietician? If you have special dietary needs due to a health condition or would like information about food and healthy eating. You will often be referred to a dietician through your doctor.

Finding the Right Nutrition Professional

Odhealth only work with AfN registered Nutritionists so you can be confident you are receiving evidence-based advice from qualified professionals. The purpose of this article though is not to persuade you that one choice is better than another but instead to help you make the right choice for you. If, after careful consideration, you believe that working with a registered Nutritionist is the right route for you then take try taking the free health questionnaire on the Odhealth homepage where your results will be used to match you with the right Nutritionist for you.

Meet the Author

Phoebe McDermott

Phoebe McDermott is a fully qualified Registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr) with a first-class degree from the University of Reading in Nutrition and Food Science (BSc, Hons). Phoebe has her own business called Nutrition by Phoebe and she believes nutrition advice is most effective when personalised; tailored to an individual need, taking into account sex, age, genetics, current health and lifestyle.

Healthy shouldn’t just be about losing weight, it may just be about making sure you are meeting all your nutritional needs and preventing health problems from arising, so that you can feel at your best.

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