What is the Difference Between a Dietitian, a Nutritionist and a Nutritional Therapist?
Choosing between a dietitian, nutritionist or nutritional therapist can sometimes be very confusing. Many people claim to be experts in nutrition, yet have very limited knowledge and expertise. Here is a summary of the differences between the three professions.
Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be governed and regulated by law. This means that to use the dietitian title, you have to be registered with a professional body called the HCPC and follow their code of ethics to adhere to the highest standard.
In the UK, the professional body of dietitians is called the Health & Care professions council (HCPC). To be eligible, dietitians must have completed a minimum of a bachelors’ degree (BSc Hons) in Nutrition & Dietetics. Otherwise a related science degree with a postgraduate diploma or master’s degree in Dietetics.
To make sure you are working with a dietitian, you can check if they are registered with the HCPC registry.
All degrees in the UK require a supervised placement within the NHS. Only after the degree and all placements are completed, individuals are eligible to apply for registration with the HCPC.
The British Dietetic Association (BDA) is the professional body and Trade Union for dietitians. It is also responsible to maintain the highest standard of the profession.
Advice from a Rigestered Dietitian is always science evidence-based. They are the only nutrition professionals to be legally able to supply and administer some medication prescription. They are also the only ones allowed to advice individuals with a specific medical condition such as diabetes, renal/ kidney disease, high cholesterol, cancer, malnutrition, and IBS syndrome.
Information about food and healthy eating is provided by Nutritonists.
Unlike a Dietitian, Nutritionist’s do not always have a protected title, which means that anyone can call themselves a nutritionist.
However, to make sure a nutritionist has the competencies and knowledge in nutrition, you can check if they are registered with the Association for Nutrition (AfN). Only individuals registered with the AfN are allowed to call themselves Registered Nutritionist (ANutr or RNutr). To be eligible to register with the AfN, a nutritionist must have completed courses that meet strict standards of professional education in nutrition that are accredited by the Association for Nutrition (AfN).
Diet and lifestyle changes are used nutritional therapists to alleviate or prevent health issues. It is often based on complementary ‘medicine’, but these are not recognised as a valid treatment in conventional medicine as they are not based on scientific evidence.
Anyone can call themselves a nutritional therapist in the UK, there are no specific qualification requirements to use the title. Nutritional therapists can register themselves with Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). This is self-regulated rather than independently regulated.
Some training for nutritional therapists is provided by the Institute of Optimum Nutrition (ION). The ION awards ‘Foundation Degree’ to those who complete certain courses of a certain level, but these are not university degrees and are not recognised by universities.Afv
Dietitian vs Nutritionist: The bottom line
If you are still unsure about which professional to seek help with, you can contact us. Rest assured that working with a dietitian is the safest option. They are the only nutrition professionals to be regulated by law, and are governed by an ethical code to ensure that they always work to the highest standard.