What is the Difference Between Dietitian, Nutritionist and Nutritional Therapist ?
Choosing between dietitian, nutritionist or a 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 and follow their code of ethics to adhere to the highest standard, otherwise.
In the UK, the professional body of dietitians is called the Health & Care professions council (HCPC), and to be eligible, dietitians must have completed a minimum of a bachelors’ degree (BSc Hons) in Nutrition & Dietetics 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 and is also responsible to maintain the highest standard of the profession.
Dietitians advice are always science evidenced based and 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 (diabetes, renal/ kidney disease, high cholesterol, cancer, malnutrition, IBS syndrome, etc.).
Nutritionists (ANutr, RNutr)
Nutritionist provide information about food and healthy eating.
Nutritionist is not a protected title in the UK, which means that anyone can call themselves nutritionist.
However, to make sure a nutritionist have 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, nutritionist must have completed courses that meet strict standards of professional education in nutrition that are accredited by the Association for Nutrition (AfN).
Nutritional therapists use diet and lifestyle to alleviate or prevent health issues, it is often based on complementary ‘medicine’ but these are not recognised as valid treatment in conventional medicine as they are not scientific evidence based.
Anyone can call themselves a nutritional therapist in the UK, there are no specific qualification requirements to use the title, but nutritional therapist 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 not recognised by universities.
If you are still unsure about which professional to seek help with, you can contact us and rest assured that working with a dietitian is the safest option as 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.