As the terms seem so similar, it is no wonder that people are often confused between the differences between nutritional therapists, nutritionists, and dieticians. In fact, are there any differences at all? Let’s get into it.
Because the term is not actually protected in UK law, anyone can call themselves a nutritional therapist. Nevertheless, practitioners who have undertaken accredited training can register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) to become a registered nutritional therapist, and can also register with the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT). There are several obvious benefits to being registered, for both nutritional therapists and their clients.
Registered nutritional therapy practitioners use a science-based approached to their work and the recommendations they make to clients, using established nutrition knowledge to promote health and wellbeing in unique individuals with unique physiology. They have a range of tools at their disposal, including testing for individual nutrient status, to assess and identify imbalances and to better understand how these may impact a specific individual’s health.
Because registered practitioners, such as London nutritional therapists Food Power Nutrition, consider everyone to be unique, they as a matter of course recommend personalised nutrition programmes rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Furthermore, they will never make claims outside of the areas of expertise or recommend nutritional therapy as a replacement for medical advice. In fact they will often work alongside medical professionals, and will always refer clients with ‘red flag’ signs or symptoms to an appropriate medical professional.
Nutritionist is another name for nutritional scientist. Nutritional scientists often work outside of the clinical realm in research, industry or education.
There are many courses of varying lengths available in nutrition, hence anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. However, courses that have applied and met strict standards of professional education in nutrition are accredited by the Association for Nutrition (AfN). Professionals from accredited courses can then apply to the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN) and call themselves a Registered Nutritionist (RNutrs).
In contrast to nutritional therapists and nutritionists, dietitians mainly work in the NHS or private clinics treating complex clinical conditions such as food allergies, diabetes, intolerances, IBS syndrome, eating disorders, chronic fatigue, malnutrition, bowel disorders, and kidney failure.
Only those registered with the statutory regulator, the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC), can call themselves a dietitian and the only route to become one is through degree-level education.
The minimum requirement is a BSc Hons in Dietetics or a related science degree with a postgraduate diploma or higher degree in Dietetics.
We hope this has helped clear up the differences between these three related but separate practitioners, and that you will know which of three you want to discuss your health concerns with. If in doubt, a good starting point can be an appointment with your nearest nutritional therapist. There are also now many opportunities to have an online consultation from the comfort of your own home.