A number of different titles are used to describe professionals working in the field of nutrition.
Registered Nutritional Therapists
Nutritional Therapy is the application of nutrition science in the promotion of health, peak performance and individual care. Registered Nutritional Therapists use a wide range of tools to assess and identify potential nutritional imbalances and understand how these may contribute to an individual’s symptoms and health concerns. This approach allows them to work with individuals to address nutritional balance and help support the body towards maintaining health. Nutritional therapy is recognised as a complementary medicine and is relevant for individuals with chronic conditions, as well as those looking for support to enhance their health and wellbeing.
Registered Nutritional Therapists consider each individual to be unique and recommend personalised nutrition and lifestyle programmes rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Registered Nutritional Therapists never recommend nutritional therapy as a replacement for medical advice and always refer any client with ‘red flag’ signs or symptoms to their medical professional. They will also frequently work alongside a medical professional and will communicate with other healthcare professionals involved in the client’s care to explain any nutritional therapy programme that has been provided.
Dietitians work principally in the National Health Service and are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council. Their professional body is the British Dietetic Association. A dietitian uses the science of nutrition to devise eating plans for patients to treat medical conditions. They also work to promote good health by helping to facilitate a positive change in food choices amongst individuals, groups and communities.
NB. Only dietitians and Registered Nutritional Therapists are trained in clinical practice to give one-on-one personal health advice. Both groups must practise with full professional indemnity insurance.
Registered Nutritionists provide evidence-based information and guidance about the impacts of food and nutrition on the health and wellbeing of humans (at an individual or population level) or animals. Registered Nutritionists have a good understanding of the scientific basis of nutrition and work in a range of settings, including research, education and in policy development.
Nutrition science is defined globally as the study of food systems, foods and drinks, and their nutrients and other constituents; and of their interactions within and between all relevant biological, social and environmental systems. Outside the biological sciences, which are core to practice in nutritional therapy, applied nutritionists have knowledge, skills and understanding which underpin competence in areas which may include inter alia epidemiology, public health practice, food technology and development, food safety, food law, ecological and environmental sustainability, economics, catering, journalism, politics and social science. The National Occupational Standards (NOS) for Nutritional Therapy cover clinical practice only. Practitioners working in applied nutrition have qualifications, training and experience additional to those required to meet the NOS for clinical practice.
Nutrition Advisor/Dietary Advisor
Other practitioners of complementary therapy may offer general nutrition advice as part of advice on a healthy lifestyle, for weight management or to support another therapy, such as massage therapy. There are many short courses in nutrition advice designed to support other complementary therapies, but they do not meet the National Occupational Standard for nutritional therapy.