Every dietitian is a nutritionist, but not every nutritionist is a dietitian. Sounds a little confusing doesn’t it. So who can you trust to give you nutrition advice?
Who is More Qualified? A Dietitian or a Nutritionist?
The difference between the two lies in the level of study and level of qualification.
Dietitians have studied a degree in Dietetics at University for 4 years or a science degree plus a 2-year postgraduate qualification in Dietetics. They study biochemistry, physiology, food science, nutrition, medical nutrition therapy, counselling, population health, are trained to critically evaluate research, as well as participate in assessed placement in clinical dietetics providing medical nutrition therapy, food service management and community and public health nutrition. For this reason dietitians are the leading experts in food and nutrition. The high level of study involved means that all dietitians are also nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are qualified to call themselves dietitians.
It’s not so clear if you are calling yourself a nutritionist though. Almost anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, nutritional therapist or a clinical nutritionist. There is no authority that looks at the qualifications of all nutritionists who are not dietitians. You can call yourself a nutritionist if you have done a 3-year University degree in nutrition or an online course involving 15 weeks of full-time study in nutrition.
Difference in Scope of Practice
The difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist is that only dietitians are qualified to provide medical nutrition therapy. This means dietitians are qualified to work in the areas of private clinical practice, hospitals, and within industry to provide expert advice on a broad range of conditions like overweight and obesity, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, gastro-intestinal diseases, food allergies and many more complex medical issues. Dietitians work across a very diverse range of areas including hospitals, private practice, food industry and public health.
Dietitians recognised by the Dietitians Association of Australia are Accredited Practicing Dietitians (APD) and Accredited Nutritionists (AN) and these terms are protected by law. They must abide by an ethical code of conduct and participate in a minimum level of continuing professional education and professional development each year to remain accredited. This ensures dietitians are up-to-date with the latest science and research in nutrition and medical nutrition therapy. Only dietitians are recognised by Medicare and the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).
Nutritionists are not qualified to provide nutrition therapy on an individual or group basis and cannot prescribe nutrition care in a hospital setting or in private practice. Nutritionists may work as health promotion officers, as nutrition consultants and advisors, within nutrition research or as food technologists.
Am I receiving Accurate Nutrition Advice?
You should definitely know whether the person you are trusting to give you nutrition advice is qualified and providing you with up-to-date, evidenced-based advice and information. The first step is to check whether they are registered with the Dietitian’s Association of Australia who recognise dietitians as Accredited Practicing Dietitians (APD) and Accredited Nutritionists (AN).
The Nutrition Society of Australia also recognises nutritionists with a degree majoring in nutrition or a postgraduate degree specialising in nutrition as Registered Nutritionists (RN’s). This is a voluntary register of nutritionists in Australia that helps to identify nutritionists with a higher level of training and experience.
So now you know the difference is in the level of study and scope of practice. You can trust a dietitian to give you practical and evidence based information.