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Sunday 25th August 2019

Leading UK Nutrition Association Urges Awareness Between Dietitians and Nutrition Therapists

16th January 2012

2012 is well and truly here!  With the New Year underway, the British Dietetic Association (BDA) has experienced is significant increase in calls from the media asking them to debunk various food claims from many sources.

In addition, Which? Magazine today launched a report outlining, what they say are, dangerous practice by some nutrition therapists working in the UK today.

The British Dietetic Association, founded in 1936, is the professional association for registered dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation for food and nutrition professionals.

“It’s time to start 2012 with a clean slate and make it absolutely clear what the difference is between a dietitian and a nutrition therapist,” said Siân Burton, BDA Vice Chairman and Chairman of the BDA’s Communication and Marketing Board.

“In a nutshell, members of the public should be aware that anybody, overnight, can set up shop as a nutrition therapist, with no qualifications and no regulatory body to monitor how they work.

“Registered dieitians working in the UK are educated to degree level and MUST be registered with the Health Professions Council (HPC) to ensure public safety by adhering to standards of professional training, performance and conduct.  In addition, the working title ‘dietitian’ is a legally protected title and cannot be used by anyone else who has not met the education and HPC standards.

“Dietitians interpret the science of nutrition into practical evidence-based advice for people while nutrition therapists do not use evidence in a robust fashion and their advice is often based on personal opinion.”

The BDA has produced a comprehensive leaflet explaining the major differences between a dietitian and nutrition therapist and members of the media and public can access it absolutely free of charge at http://www.bda.uk.com/publications/dietitian-nutritionist2010.pdf.

“Dietitians in the UK are very keen for these differences to become widely known and understood by members of the public and, indeed, the media.  I urge anyone with an interest in health and nutrition to read this leaflet,” Sian Burton concluded.

A summary of the differences includes:

   Dietitian  Nutrition Therapist
 Title protected by law?  Yes - only those registered with the statutory regulator, the Health Professions Council (HPC) can call themselves a Dietitian.  No – anyone can call themselves a Nutrition Therapist.
 Minimum qualifications required?  Minimum requirement is BSc Hons in Dietetics or BSc Hons in related biological science with post graduate diploma or degree.  Do not have UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists or HPC recognised qualifications. 
 Minimum regulation and quality assurance?  The HPC’s role is to protect the public. They are an independent, UK-wide health regulator. They set standards of professional training, performance and conduct for 14 professions. They keep a register of health professionals who meet their standards and take action if registered health professionals fall below those standards. Registered professionals keep up to date through compulsory Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
If an individual is not happy with treatment they are given, or if they are worried about the behaviour or health of a registered health professional, they can approach the HPC who will investigate and take action.
 Nutrition therapists are not required to be registered in order to work in the UK (can decide whether to be part of a voluntary system or not – individual choice).
 Where they work?  Dietitians work across all age groups, many care pathways and in a great variety of organisations and settings including mental health, learning disabilities, community, acute and public health in the NHS and industry, education, and the media.
They work as integral members of multi-disciplinary teams to treat complex clinical conditions such as eating disorders, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome and diabetes. They provide advice to caterers to ensure nutritional care of all clients in NHS and care settings and plan and implement public health programmes to promote health and prevent nutrition related disease. A key role is the education and training of other health and social care workers.
 Nutrition therapists see private patients who wish to consider alternative/complementary medicine.
 Treatments offered?  Dietitians interpret the science of nutrition into practical advice and options for clients, patients, carers and colleagues using a broad range of disciplines such as communication behaviour change and pharmacology. They advise and help to maintain nutritional status when clients want to follow alternative therapies e.g. diets for autism, exclusion diets.  They cannot offer advice based on personal opinion or beliefs or where there would be personal financial benefit.  Nutritional therapists use treatments such as high dose vitamins, detox, and food avoidance for which there is little evidence.
They work on the belief that the body has underlying nutritional and biochemical imbalances that are leading to poor health including mental health problems.
They do not use the evidence in a robust fashion and advice is most often based on personal opinion or belief.
 Products they use?  Dietitians are able to manage the whole system from advice and recommendation to a patient’s access to all NHS approved borderline substances (ACBS) nutritional products and supplements, with or without prescription. Dietitians are able to manage i.e. ordering and adjusting dosages of nutritional supplements directly on the patients drug chart.  Nutritional therapists use commercial (non-NHS approved) dietary supplements including mega doses, and commercial (not NHS approved) allergy testing. Suggested products have to be bought.

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