I have wanted to write a blog for some time now in order to clear up something that is very important to me and to many others in my profession.
A recent report from Which? found that many nutritional therapists were giving out misleading and potentially dangerous advice (see the Which? report here: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2012/01/nutritional-therapists-gambling-with-your-health-276653/). This has lead many of my own friends and clients asking if I am a nutritional therapist and additionally, if this report has had an impact on my profession. The answer to the first question is a resounding NO, I am not a nutritional therapist! The answer to the latter question is a very unfortunate yes..!
The concept of what or who a nutritionist, a dietitian and nutritional therapist is very confusing for the public and can lead to members of the public getting inaccurate and, as the Which? report shows, potentially dangerous advice. Additionally, this confusion is also an issue that truly haunts many of those in the field of nutrition and/or dietetics. So my aim is to put the world to rights, as they say, and try to spread the word about the importance of evidence-based nutrition practice and help people to get accurate dietary advice.
What is a nutritional therapist?
Generally nutritional therapists make dietary recommendations with an aim of alleviating or preventing certain ailments. More often than not these recommendations include supplementation, food avoidance, detoxification and more extreme dietary ideas for which there is little scientific evidence. Therapists often use non-evidenced based practice to advise their clients and can give out advice based on opinion or beliefs rather than science and facts.
Therapists do not necessarily have any qualifications in nutrition and their qualifications are usually not ones recognised by the Association for Nutrition (the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists) or the Health Professional Council.
Unfortunately, the title of “Nutritionist”, as with the therapists, is not protected by law. The reason for this is that it takes a number of years for a body (such as the Association for Nutrition) to register and qualify for a protected title. The Association for Nutrition are currently working towards this protection. However, only registrants with the Association for Nutrition (which holds the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists) can call themselves a “Registered Nutritionist” or a “Registered Public Health Nutritionist” and therefore it is important you seek out these terms when looking for accurate, reliable nutritional advice from a qualified professional.
The UKVRN (UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists) “includes only individuals who are qualified and competent in nutritional science and practice and who uphold the highest professional and ethical standards through a comprehensive code of conduct”.
Next time someone asks me if I am a therapist I will advise them of my Nutritional degree, my MSc in Nutrition and Public Health and my Registered Public Health Nutritionist status and hope that other registered nutritionists will also help in my goal to spread the word for our profession.