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What is the difference between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist?

Both dietitians and nutritionists study diet, food, and nutrition and supplementation and how these affect the body, health, and wellbeing of individuals or groups of people. But while all dietitians are nutritionists, not all nutritionists are dietitians.

Dietitians are regulated by licensures, registration, and certifications, and can provide Medical Nutrition Therapy for treatment and reversal of disease processes. Registered Dietitians are members of one or more professional bodies, and therefore are held accountable for their conduct, care, and treatment provided. This can increase the credibility, reliability, and safety of their professional advice and care. The focus of a dietitian’s work is to organize health improvement plans to promote healthy eating habits, prevention of disease, and treatment of illnesses. Dietitians often have a holistic approach to health and have other certifications to complement their degree.

In the United States, the title “nutritionist” is not regulated or protected, and therefore can be used by anyone, even without proof of qualifications requirement. Many nutritionists have studied diet and nutrition and may have more advanced degrees than some dietitians.

Those with advanced degrees from accredited colleges and who have practical experience can sit for the nutritionist certification boards, and upon passing the exam are certified nutrition specialists, or C.N.S, which is a protected title. Since the title ‘nutritionist’ has been used by many unqualified people to describe their involvement in food and nutrition, you should be careful to choose a qualified nutritional professional such as a CNS or RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist).

One of the major differences between a nutritionist and a dietitian, is that a dietitian can help diagnose eating disorders or help plan meals for the management of symptoms of health problems and conduct nutritional behavior therapy. Because nutritionist may not have any professional practical training, they should not be involved in the diagnosis and dietary treatment of any diseases. Nutritionists tend to work mostly with behavioral issues and teach general nutrition and health principles.

Both dietitians and nutritionists are concerned about the health and welfare of their clients and can work as partners in serving the health needs of their communities.

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