January 20, 2012 ( Categories Nutrition | Tags: accredited, advice, define, diet, dietitian, different, naturopath, Nutrition, nutritionist, practising, professional )
Who do you call for professional help with nutrition – maybe to lower cholesterol, cope with a food intolerance, or get expert advice to eat better? ‘Nutritionist’ might seem the obvious answer, but it’s not: anyone, with or without qualifications, can call themselves a nutritionist.
Finding a nutrition professional wasn’t always an issue – once upon a time we didn’t seek out help with our diet unless there was a problem like diabetes. That’s all changed in the last three decades – partly because science knows more about how food affects our health, but also because of big changes in the food supply itself.
Global changes in climate and lifestyle factors have been linked to increasing food intolerances and allergies. Rapidly advancing food technologies and having more choices in food than we ever had before has raised more consumer questions than ever. The plethora of often conflicting nutritional information out there means some of us are over nourished – or nourished by the wrong things.
We often go looking for help as a result – but who to turn to? The most commonly consulted health professionals for nutritional advice are dietitians, general practitioners, nutritionists and naturopaths. Of these, formal training in nutrition can range from zero to four or more years at university. GPs have minimal formal training in nutrition and nowadays refer patients requiring nutritional therapy to dietitians.
An extremely brief summary
Nutritionists may or may not have any university qualifications in human nutrition. Accredited Nutritionists are qualified to use food and nutrition to prevent health problems, and Dietitians use food and nutrition to manage or treat, as well as prevent health problems. Naturopaths may include nutrition among other complementary modalities in their practice. Only Accredited Practising Dietitians are covered by Medicare. There is much more to this story, so read on if you want all the juicy details…
What’s the difference? The down and dirty
Accredited Practising Dietitians…
(who sometimes call themselves nutritionists) are accredited by the Dietitians’ Association of Australia (DAA). To qualify as an APD takes a minimum of four years’ university study in nutrition and dietetics, and ongoing additional training each year to maintain accreditation.
It’s the dietetics qualification that separates a dietitian from someone with a degree in nutrition science alone. In addition to or as part of their qualification in human nutrition, a dietitian has undertaken substantial theory and professional practice in clinical nutrition, medical nutrition therapy and food service management.
Obesity, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, gastro intestinal problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, insulin resistance, PCOS, diabetes, food intolerance, coeliac disease and allergies are some of the most common reasons for seeing a dietitian. Dietitians also work with people who are perfectly well but seeking expert advice in sports nutrition, vegetarian eating and stages of the lifecycle such as pregnancy.
In short, dietitians can work with you to treat or manage disease using nutrition, as well as prevent disease and maintain a healthy diet.
APDs are recognised by Medicare. This means you may be eligible for a Medicare, Department of Veterans’ Affairs or private health fund rebate on services.
If you have a health problem that can be improved by diet – e.g. you’re at risk of heart disease or diabetes – you may be eligible for a rebate for up to five sessions with a dietitian under what’s called an Enhanced Health Care plan.
may be qualified nutrition scientists or biochemists or may not have any university qualifications in human nutrition at all. There is no government regulation for the term nutritionist.
The term Accredited Nutritionist can be used by members of the DAA who are also Accredited Practising Dietitians. Therefore, in Australia, all dietitians are considered to be nutritionists however, nutritionists without a dietetics qualification cannot take on the specialised role of a dietitian. ANs generally work with patients to prevent chronic disease and encourage everyday healthy eating.
Because Nutritionists are not qualified in medical nutrition therapy as dietitians are, they are not recognised by Medicare, so no Medicare, DVA or private health fund rebates are available on services rendered by a nutritionist.
are complementary and alternative health practitioners who often also call themselves nutritionists. They have varying lengths of training in nutrition, and their training is not strictly evidence-based, sometimes falling outside “accepted” nutrition and dietetic practice.
Naturopathic philosophy favours a holistic approach, and, like conventional medicine seeks to find the least invasive measures necessary for symptom improvement or resolution, encouraging minimal use of surgery and unnecessary drugs. The ideology focuses on naturally-occurring substances, minimally-invasive methods, and encouragement of natural healing.
Naturopathy comprises many different treatment modalities of varying degrees of acceptance by the conventional medical community; these treatments range from standard evidence-based treatments, to homeopathy and other practices sometimes characterised unfavourably by the medical profession as pseudoscience.
Naturopaths who also call themselves Nutritionists are generally less conservative in their approach to nutrition, in that they may use unconventional diagnostic tools, and prescribe vitamin mega-doses, nutrient supplements and strict diets which are not accepted by mainstream medical and nutritional science.
There is no state licensure in Australia for Naturopaths, rather the industry is self-regulated. There is no protection of title, meaning that technically anyone can practise as a naturopath. The only way to obtain insurance for professional indemnity or public liability is by joining a professional association, which can only be achieved by having completed an accredited course and gaining professional certification. Currently the only registered modalities of natural medicine in Australia are those relating to Chinese medicine, and only in Victoria.
In summary, Nutritionists may or may not have any university qualifications in human nutrition. Accredited Nutritionists are qualified to use food and nutrition to prevent health problems, and Dietitians use food and nutrition to manage or treat, as well as prevent health problems. Naturopaths may include nutrition among other complementary modalities in their practice. Only Accredited Practising Dietitians are covered by Medicare.
Integrated Nutrition – the best of both worlds
I offer another choice for the modern, health-conscious individual seeking person nutritional advice: integrated nutrition. As an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist, I have a clinical background and apply evidence-based principles which many clients still depend on for safety and peace of mind. I have also undertaken studies and have practical experience in natural nutritional therapy, raw food, Ayurveda, Chinese nutritional medicine, Yoga, and Ka Huna Bodywork. For more information on integrated nutrition and what I do, click here.