Dietitian vs. Nutritionist

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Difference between Dietitian and Nutritionist

While a dietitian and a nutritionist may seem like they are one and the same thing, they actually serve different–albeit similar–roles. Both can help you with very specific needs, although each has a distinct area of expertise as this comparison article illustrates. 

Definition

A dietitian is a health professional whose role is to improve health via sound nutritional habits. As defined by the American Dietetics Association, a registered dietitian or R.D. is a dietitian that has met the necessary academic and professional requirements. In order to qualify for this title, a registered dietitian will need to have a degree in dietetics from an accredited college or university, as well as completed at least 900 hours of internship. A dietitian will also have to pass an RD exam and complete 50 credits of continuing education credits every 5 years in order to maintain their R.D. license.

A nutritionist on the other hand is a health professional who deals with food and nutritional sciences. The goal of these practitioners is to prevent diseases related to nutritional deficiencies. To meet this goal, these professionals utilize nutrient manipulation techniques that enhance people’s response to diet. Unlike a dietitian, a nutritionist does not have to pass any specific requirements, and the term itself can and is used by anyone who works in the field of nutrition. Many people working at health food stores in fact routinely refer to themselves as nutritionists.

Roles

On thing that a dietitian and a nutritionist have in common is the focus on planning nutritional programs for patients suffering from different health issues. Some patents that suffer from high blood pressure for instance may benefit from a diet modification as prescribed by either a dietitian or a nutritionist. For such patients, the plan of action may include reducing salt in the diet or eliminating it entirely, or increasing the fiber content in the diet. Still other plans may involve increasing protein consumption, and reducing fat and/or sugar.

Key Differences

While nutritionists aren't subject to the same rigid requirements with regard to licensing and credentials, they may become members of established nutrition organizations such as the American Association of Nutritional Consultants. Dietitians on the other hand are subject to more stringent requirements, and will require the necessary education and training in order to qualify for R.N. status. Many nutritionists therefore have Masters’ degrees in Biology or Physiology. This discrepancy is reflected in the fact that most nutritionists typically do not have the same responsibilities as that expected of dietitians.

Similarities and Differences

Dietitian

  • A health professional whose role is to improve health via sound nutritional habits
  • May become a registered dietitian or R.N. after meeting the necessary academic and professional requirements

Nutritionist

  • A health professional who deals with food and nutritional sciences
  • Does not have to pass any specific requirements
  • The term can be used by anyone who works in the field of nutrition

Which diet consultant is easier to find?
  • Dietitian
  • Nutritionist
 
 

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