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The Secret to Nutrition Health That Everyone Should Know

The Secret to Nutrition Health That Everyone Should Know

In 1984, Time Magazine used their coveted cover page to publish an article about the dangers of cholesterol, consequently promoting low-fat diets for the masses. At that time, about 20% of the United States population was classified as overweight. Food companies reacted with massive shifts in product development and food marketing, boasting new low-fat and fat-free versions of kitchen staples. Finally, a solution to our nutrition woes.

In 2014, Time Magazine used their coveted cover page to publish an article encouraging consumers to eat butter and other high fat foods. This recommendation was a complete contradiction to their earlier recommendations. What happened? Had we, as a nation, collectively lost too much weight? Far from it. By 2010, at least 32% of population was now categorized as overweight, with higher percentages classified as obese and a growing percentage of “extremely obese”- a relatively new category.

How did this happen?

To understand nutrition paradigm shifts, dietary recommendations, and food science, consumers often turn to news publications, social media influencers, internet search engines, friends and/or even healthcare politics. The problem with these outlets, as we’ve already seen with Time Magazine’s inconsistent reporting, is that they are often not sourced by nutrition experts. And, unbeknownst to many, there is an obvious and consistent source of nutrition expertise that everyone should seek out: Registered Dietitians.

Registered dietitians (RD) are the nationally recognized nutrition experts. The standard requirements to become an RD are intensive, and include the following:

     • Master’s degree completion from an accredited dietetics program

o Coursework includes, but not limited to:

  •  Organic chemistry
  •  Microbiology
  •  Anatomy and physiology
  •  Food science
  •  Nutrition education
  •  Agricultural history and economics
  •  Public policy
  •  Research design and statistics

  • Nutrition Internship- similar to a medical residency for physicians, dietitians are required to complete 1,000 hours of supervised practice in various nutrition settings, including hospitals
  • Pass national RD board exam
  • Maintain ongoing professional development through documenting continued education in order to stay up-to-date on the latest research, recommendations and best practices

Because of their clinical qualifications, RDs are also able to earn advanced board credentials that are only available to other nationally recognized health practitioners, like nurses, doctors, and pharmacists, to name a few. These credentials allow RDs to develop specialties within their practice. For example, an RD working in the hospital intensive care unit (ICU) will benefit from specializing in critical care nutrition support. A private practice dietitian might want to expand her expertise to include specializing in diabetes management.

All dietitians are nutritionists. Not all nutritionists are dietitians.

All dietitians are nutritionists. Not all nutritionists are dietitians.

This point was worth repeating as it has led to decades of confusion among consumers, with critical health consequences. What’s the difference in these two career paths?

Unlike the requirements for becoming an RD, there are no standardized requirements for becoming a nutritionist. This means that while dietitians, doctoral researchers, and food scientists qualify as nutritionists, health coaches, aestheticians, celebrities, and social media influencers can also use this term, with no legal ramifications. Because there is no standard definition for

“nutritionist”, this title can go unchecked. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist.

Fortunately, consumers and patients are protected by laws that prohibit anyone other than dietitians from giving nutrition advice to those with medical conditions. Why? Because nutrition interventions are unique to each individual. Nutrition interventions require an understanding of:

  •  the pathophysiology of disease
  •  systemic behavior of vitamins and minerals specific to medical conditions
  •  psychology of eating behavior and decision making
  •  agricultural history and policies affecting consumer diets
  •  breakthroughs in research and how to apply scientific findings to clinical practice
  •  pharmacological interventions and contraindications specific to diet and health
  •  food science

Most importantly, most dietitians have seen the devastating consequences of applying misinformation to nutrition care.

As a registered dietitian, I’ve seen patients in critical care hospital settings as well as in my private practice. The one thing almost all my patients have in common is that at some point during our time together, they’ve heard me say this: Looking for nutrition information without consulting with a dietitian is like learning about the” birds and the bees” from your friends on the playground. To some extent, the information is there… but, boy, is it being presented incorrectly.

I encourage everyone to empower themselves as consumers and patients. Consulting with a registered dietitian is the most effective way to answer your nutrition questions and understand your unique nutrition needs.

To find a registered dietitian, go to www.EatRight.org and click on “Find and Expert.” You can also head to www.FLNutritionGroup.com to learn more about my nutrition practice and how we can work together.

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