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From: Mark Rifkin (rifkin.vegsource.com)
Subject:         Re: Dietician vs. Nutritionist ???
Date: January 13, 2006 at 12:00 am PST

In Reply to: Dietician vs. Nutritionist ??? posted by Cathy on January 12, 2006 at 5:24 am:

Cathy,

Thanks for your question. Both "dietitian" and "nutritionist" are sometimes used interchangeably by both the public and professional communities. Dietitians are credentialed by the American Dietetic Association (eatright.org), and nutritionists are USUALLY credentialed by the Certification Board of Nutrition Specialists (cert-nutrition.org)

I say USUALLY because not all states license the term "nutritionist", and even where they do, the term is frequently misused/abused by the public with the help of unqualified, uncredentialed practitioners. States which license the term may contribute to the problem thru poor enforcement of their own rules.

As a result of such misuse/abuse, in my opinion, the term is almost meaningless. When I hear the term, I immediately suspect the person has no credible credential, limited knowledge, is probably selling some secret "amazing" supplement (a fraudulent product) and/or is very likely practicing illegally. I know at least one practitioner who identifies herself ---illegally---as a nutritionist. I never refer to myself as a nutritionist.

Other states may not have such problems yet, but if they don't now, I predict they soon will, as nutrition becomes more in demand and more unlicensed practitioners hang out a shingle.

In contrast, the term "dietitian" is almost never misused/abused. Everyone knows the credential is meaningful, indicates compliance with a standard set of educational and testing requirements, from whom those requirements are issued, and is usually required by hospitals and referring physicians.

That's not to say one should never try to become a properly-credentialed nutritionist. For some people, this path is more suitable to their needs. I know one person pursuing the path legitimately (thru cert-nutrition.org). But in my opinion, the term is subject to too much interpretation.

Hope that helps,
Mark Rifkin, MS, RD, LDN

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