bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

What’s the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?

6 Comments

Myth 19: There is no difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist.
What Dietitians of Canada says:
“Dietitians are one of a kind… Dietitians must be part of a regulatory body, just like doctors, pharmacists, and nurses. The terms “Registered Dietitian,” “Professional Dietitian” and “Dietitian” are protected by law. In many provinces, there are no laws to protects the title “nutritionist.””
What I say:
Yes and no. In some provinces nutritionist is a protected term. However, in most provinces nutritionist is not a protected term so anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. RDs who have a masters in human nutrition often call themselves nutritionists, regardless of province. Being part of a regulatory body means that we are licenced and held accountable. Unregulated nutritionists do not have that same accountability and often have little education to support their knowledge of nutrition. Check that the person providing you with nutrition advice has the credentials to be doing so. For an interesting and balanced take on the differences between dietitians and nutritionists I highly recommend Erik Davis three-part series The Legitimacy Diet. I’ve linked to the third part here as it also has a list of the provinces where nutritionist is a protected term. Links to the first and second parts are on the right-hand side of the page.

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian living in Nova Scotia, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

6 thoughts on “What’s the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?

  1. While Erik Davis makes sense regarding nutritionists vs dietitians, which is straightforward question of qualifications and education, I had look at some of his other posts and find him a bit too skeptical. I think there is evidence that homeopathy is effective in animals, and I have had personal experience of the effectiveness of acupuncture for musculoskeletal issues. In fact I find it encouraging that such courses are being offered in the science-based setting of a traditional medical school.

    • Hi Mum,

      I haven’t read any of Erik’s other posts so I can’t comment on them. I did, however, find the one on nutritionists and dietitians to be accurate and helpful in explaining the distinctions between the professions.

  2. Pingback: Follow Friday: Skeptic North | bite my words

  3. Pingback: The relationship between dietitians and the Food Guide | bite my words

  4. I understand the ‘clinical’ differences and that the terms have similar but different meanings when you talk about ‘credentials” etc,. but from my exposure to both, they seem to provide extremely similar advice and approach healthy eating issues from essentially the same perspective. http://www.eatright.org/RDN/

    I know here in the US, how one or the other is treated by other medical professionals and hospitals is a bit different, with Dietitians ‘trumping’ Nutritionists. But personally, I wouldn’t have any problem getting advice form one or the other, and would see their opinions as equal.

    It’s funny how some people are drawn to someone solely by their title rather than delving into their experience and then deciding whose opinion/advice to seek. Just because someone has the parchment on the wall doesn’t mean they have sufficient experience dealing with YOUR SPECIFIC issues to be the best to offer advice to or treat you.

    I had seen the same GP for about 15 years, I didn’t choose him; my physician had moved on and the practice I was aligned with assigned me to a new Doctor… I was ‘okay’ with him, but we never really clicked that well. He had lots of experience, but most of it was treating older patients… and that actually worked a bit against me, because he wasn’t aggressive enough when it came to treating my weight issues, and I should have moved away from him MUCH earlier than I did. I don’t BLAME him, but he didn’t HELP me either.

    • Individuals will definitely vary. You may or may not “click” with one health professional. Aside from that, there are some pretty significant differences between dietitians and nutritionists. In many places, the title “nutritionist” is not protected. Therefore, anyone with or without any credentials can call themselves a nutritionist. Dietitian is a protected title and you must be licenced by a college or association (depending on where you live). While many nutritionists are perfectly capable of providing good nutrition advice they do not have the same extent of education and training. They are also not legally accountable nor do must they provide evidence of on-going education. For a great explanation of the difference between dietitians and nutritionists you should check out the three part piece on Skeptic North: http://www.skepticnorth.com/2011/04/the-legitimacy-diet-part-1-all-nutritionists-are-certifiable/

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