Difference between Dietitian and Nutritionist

Key difference: Dietitians and nutritionists advise people on matters of food and nutrition. A dietitian is a trained and licensed practitioner, subject to professional regulation, while a nutritionist is not.

Many people assume that there is no difference between a “dietitian” and a “nutritionist.” Even though, they both advise people on matters of food and nutrition and they both practice “clinical nutrition”, there is a huge difference between the two. In many countries and jurisdictions, a dietitian is a trained and licensed practitioner, subject to professional regulation, while a nutritionist is not. Any person may call themselves a nutrition expert even if they are completely self-taught.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, clinical nutrition is defined as “The science of nutrients and how they are digested, absorbed, transported, metabolized, stored, and eliminated by the body. Besides studying how food works in the body, nutritionists are interested in how the environment affects the quality and safety of foods, and what influence these factors have on health and disease.”

Usually a nutritionists' expertise comes from personal experience or is self-taught via referencing books or online knowledge. Where else, a dietitian is usually accredited, and will have a bachelor’s, a master’s or a PhD in clinical nutrition. Some healthcare providers, such as medical doctors, osteopaths, physician assistants, chiropractors and naturopathic doctors, may also be considered to be nutritionists if they are knowledgeable in nutrition and provide advice in the area of nutrition or clinical nutrition.

A nutritionist is a person who advises on matters of food and nutrition that impact health, while dietitians are experts in food and nutrition. Dietitians advise people on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or achieve a specific health-related goal, such as a cancer patient managing nutritional needs, or a diabetic monitoring sugar intake.

A nutritionist is usually the person to see in order to learn how to increase performance in sports and fitness by means of nutrition. They know the benefits of foods for increasing things such as endurance and muscle mass. They are also known for designing weight-loss plans. They also coach individuals on how to live an optimum, healthy lifestyle and integrate a healthy diet into their everyday lives.

Dietitians and nutritionists mainly find work designing and integrating menus in hospitals, fitness centers, spas, health clubs, colleges, nursing care facilities, canteens, hotels, government, etc. They can also work as consultants or own a private practice. Usually dietitians work in the field of healthcare, foodservice, corporate setting, and educational arenas, as they have more formal education in the matter, and are usually paid more, whereas nutritionists usually consult one-on-one and have a private practice.

So, an easy way to differentiate between dietitians and nutritionists is to remember that “all dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are dietitians.” As dietitians and nutritionists both give advice on nutrition, they are both nutritionists. However, as dietitians have more training, education, and are allowed to give advice in medical cases, not all nutritionists can be dietitians.

Image Courtesy: customermagnetism.com, coloradohealthcareers.org

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