What is a Dietician?
What is a Dietitian?
Knowing who to trust in the advice arena can be a challenge. Anyone is eligible to call themselves a Nutritionist/ Nutritional Therapist or “expert” in nutrition! However, unless having undertaken professional training, not everyone can call themselves Dietitians.
Registered Dietitians (who have the professional letters “RD” after their names) are the only qualified health professionals that have been trained to assess, diagnose and treat diet-related diseases in healthy and unwell individuals and at a population level. To ensure they work to the highest standard, dietitians are the only nutrition experts who are regulated by law and governed by an ethical code under the regulator the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC).
Nutritionists work in many areas including health policy, local and national government, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), public health, education, research or in the private sector. Those that have studied courses in nutrition that meet accreditation by the Association for Nutrition (AfN) are eligible to register with the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN). Nutritionists work with people who are well and are qualified to provide information about food and healthy eating, but NOT about special diets for medical conditions. They SHOULD NOT work with people who are clinically unwell and require input from a dietitian.
Nutritional Therapists may have undergone informal training or via the Institute of Optimum Nutrition. They are not eligible to register with the UKVRN or the HCPC. Practice is not recognised by conventional medicine. Nutritional Therapists use treatments such as food-avoidance and detox or promote the intake of high dose vitamins, which are not NHS-approved. Their practice is not necessarily scientifically evidenced-based and advice is often based on personal opinion.
What is the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) that regulate dietitians?
The HCPC is a UK based health regulator established to protect the public. The HCPC outlines standards for dietitians which must be adhered to. Failure to do so results in the HCPC taking necessary action. Dietitians must be seen to be actively keeping up-to-date and refining their practice via “Contiuned Professional Development” (CPD).
What do dietitians do and where do they work?
Dietitians treat medical conditions using evidence-based practice. This means, they critically examine (appraise) the latest scientific evidence and research and subsequently translate it into practical advice to educate, advise and help people to make necessary food choices . They usually work in the NHS or in the private sector across many settings including:
- The Community
- Care homes
- Rehab units
- Food industry
- Public Health