Looking for a nutritionist?

If you’re looking for a nutritionist in Pool in Wharfedale, Otley, Harrogate or North Leeds, read on…

We’ve reached a stage in history where people who are obese vastly outnumber those with malnutrition in the world – yet despite a barrage of information, so many of us know so little about what we put in our bodies.

I’ve recently been taking a greater interest in nutrition. When I was growing up, I was always a bit of Porsche engine fuelled by Coca Cola kind of guy. I had a physique that should have made me a semi-decent sportsperson but by fuelling and re-fuelling habits were terrible.

Thankfully, I’ve put all that behind me and now eat a mostly balanced diet, cutting out the CRAP (caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol and processed) food as much as possible.

But the thing that astounds me is it’s almost impossible to know where to look next when it comes to advice. Only in the world of nutrition can both a high protein and a high carb diet both be scientifically proven to be good for you! So who do you believe?

Many of us simply take in some of the cod science when it comes to newspaper or magazine columns and while that will have some health benefits over simply not caring what you eat, a health professional is the kind of person who can really help you.

As a disclaimer right now, I’ll say that until I do more studies, I am NOT that person. I did a personal training course that had two nutrition modules and have a basic understanding of how things work. I offer my clients a dietary analysis where I look at what they eat over a week and try and make some recommendations as to what they could do better to further their aims, but I am as far from a nutritionist as the next person – I simply have a very good understanding of how it all works.

If you are looking for someone who is (or should that be claims to be) a nutritionist, things start to get really murky – simply because in the UK it is not a protected name and anyone can claim to be one! The rest of this article will try and clear up who’s who and what’s what in the world of nutrition, so when you come to make a choice, you will be better informed.

Dietitian

According to the NHS, a dietitian is someone who translates the science of nutrition into everyday information about food. They are involved in the diagnosis and dietary treatment of disease and you will normally find them in a clinical setting such as a hospital or a GP surgery.

To qualify as a dietician, you need to have a four-year degree in dietetics and be registered with the  Health and Care Professions Council, meaning that dietitians are the only nutrition professionals that are regulated by government law.

Nutritionist

Nutritionists tend not to see people on a one-to-one basis, rather they work with bodies such as the NHS and local authorities to give advice on nutrition.

To qualify, one needs a BSc (Hons) in nutritional science and should be registered with the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN)  which is regulated by the Association for Nutrition. Only nutritionists with the required learning can register and call themselves a Registered Nutritionist or a Registered Public Health Nutritionist.

Why is this important? Because unlike the term dietician, the term nutritionist is not protected, so anyone can claim the title!

Nutritional therapists

These are the kind of people we are more familiar with thanks to their semi-celebrity status, the like of TV’s Gillian McKeith and ‘Food Doctor’ Ian Marber.

Similar to a nutritionist, but nutritional therapists more often than not work directly with clients. Some work in private practice and people, sometimes even from NHS referrals.

They are usually registered with the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and have studied on a course approved by the Nutritional Educational Commission (NTEC). While these courses are often not degrees, they do tend to last for two or three years and have an element of biomedicine in the curriculum.

Many nutritional therapists believe that good nutrition is the key to a healthy and productive lifestyle – and that in cases, good nutrition can replace medicine. It should be noted however that they are not a replacement for a visit to your GP.

The rest

Under these qualifications are a number of people who have studied short courses (I am one of them) who may be able to offer some general advice. The length and quality of courses can vary – I have seen some that last no more than a month and are studied totally online with no clinical practice at all. While that might give some understanding of nutrition, it is certainly not a replacement for a therapist who has completed a course over several years, has an understanding of science and who has undergone regulated clinical practice.

Before booking a session with any nutrition professional, I’d advise asking for their qualifications and checking them against the above bodies to see who they are registered with.