Dietician or Nutritionist… What’s The Difference?

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In a constantly changing world of new diets, food fads and weight loss pills it can be a struggle to understand just what you and your family should be eating. We asked Aoife Carey to explain the difference between choosing a dietician or a nutritionist, and help point us in the right direction to getting the correct advice for you and your family.

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What Is A Dietician?
Dietitian’s are degree level trained health professionals who study medicine, nutrition and biomedical science and undergo rigorous clinical training. This allows them to be formally registered as a dietitian with CORU and the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI). They use up to date, evidence based science in order to treat diet and health problems at an individual and wider public level. Hospital based dietitians treat patients in lots of areas including diabetes, renal (kidney), cardiology (heart), paediatrics (infants & children), surgery, intensive care, nutrition support (tube feeding), HIV/AIDS, burns, mental health (including eating disorders), oncology (cancer) and gastroenterology. In the community they work translating nutritional and scientific information into practical advice for community patients, nursing homes, crèches and schools. Sports nutrition is essential to promoting and enhancing sporting performance and there are a number of specialised sports dietitians working with athletes and teams across the country. Dietitians also work in research advancing the science and understanding of nutrition. So you can trust a dietitian to know a thing or two about nutrition! You can find your local dietitian at www.indi.ie.

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What Is A Nutritionist?
Many nutritionists are highly trained and work in lots of roles including public health, health policy, local and national government, in the private sector, in sport, Non Government Organisations (NGOs) and in education and research. The nutritionists I trained with work as lecturers, food technologists, researchers, in food advertising, in animal nutrition and in the private sector. Once Irish nutritionists have completed an affiliated BSc or MSc nutrition degree course they can register with the Associate of Nutritionists (AfN) in the UK but this is voluntary and there is no such register in Ireland. This means you can do a single night class, read a couple of nutrition articles or do absolutely no training at all and start working as a nutritionist, nutrition therapist or ‘expert’ tomorrow. There is no regulation of this industry in Ireland. This has led to lots of nutrition ‘experts’ offering quick fix dietary solutions through dangerous dietary restriction and food elimination diets, scientifically unproven detox and cleansing programmes and sales of weight loss supplements and pills. For example, food intolerance testing has become fashionable with nutritional therapists and pharmacies throughout the country offering lots of different tests including hair and nail sampling, blood (isolated IgG testing) and saliva tests, iridology (examining the eyes) and muscle testing. None of these are scientifically proven to identify food intolerances and are not recommended by the Irish Food Allergy Network. Dietitians cannot and will not offer food intolerance testing or sell nutritional products that have no scientific basis for their use. If you think you may have a food allergy or intolerance contact your GP or local dietitian (www.indi.ie) who will advise you on appropriate testing and treatments if necessary.

Over the next few weeks we will be discussing many exciting nutrition topics for you and your family. If you have any questions or topics you’d like to see discussed please contact us at [email protected]

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