What Is The Difference Between A Dietitian And A Nutritionist?

Is there a difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist? 

The answer is YES—there is a difference. As an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist, I believe it is extremely important to find a practitioner best suited to your individual needs; and it is imperative to make an educated choice.

Who can call themselves a dietitian or nutritionist?

In Australia there is no legal protection over the terms ‘dietitian’ and ‘nutritionist.’ This means that anyone (with a variety of education and training) can refer to themselves as a dietitian or a nutritionist.

In light of this, The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) developed credentialing systems for the credentials ‘Accredited Practising Dietitian’ (APD) which is protected by law. Only qualified practitioners who have met certain requirements can use this title.

Who can call themselves an APD?

In order to use the title ‘APD’, individuals must complete a tertiary level course accredited by the Dietitians Association of Australia. These courses vary depending on the university, and may include:

  • a five-year Bachelor degree

or

  • a three-year Bachelor of Science degree followed by a one-to-two-year post-graduate Masters degree in dietetic studies.

What is covered in dietetics degree?

A variety of courses are covered in the dietetics degree, including:

  • physiology
  • chemistry
  • biochemistry
  • food science
  • medical nutrition therapy.

Graduates also develop extensive skills in:

  • communication
  • individual counselling
  • education
  • health promotion
  • research and critical analysis of scientific literature.

What does Nutrition Australia say about APDs?

As stated by Nutrition Australia;

APDs are tertiary qualified in food, nutrition and dietetics. They provide expert nutrition advice for people of all ages and prescribe dietary treatments for many conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, food allergies and intolerances, cancers, gastro-intestinal diseases, renal disease and overweight and obesity. An APD has undertaken a course of study that has included supervised and assessed professional practice in public health nutrition, medical nutrition therapy and food service management.

 

Accredited Practising Dietitian is the only credential recognised by the Australian Government, Medicare, the Department of Veterans Affairs and most private health funds as the quality standard for nutrition and dietetics services in Australia. APDs are committed to the Dietitians Association of Australia Code of Professional Conduct, continuing professional development and providing quality services, with performance regularly reviewed.

 

To maintain APD status, nutrition and dietetic professionals are required to undertake a specified level of continuing education and professional development to ensure currency of practice and APD status is reviewed annually by DAA.

Is the term ‘nutritionist’ regulated?

In comparison, the term nutritionist is not as regulated as APD. Nutrition Society of Australia has developed a Register of Nutritionists but membership is completely voluntary. This means it is up to the practitioner if they wish to become a member or not. While many nutritionists undergo university training, it is not to the extent of dietitians.

What is the role of a nutritionist?

The main role of a nutritionist is to help people achieve optimal health by providing advice about food choices. Nutritionists are not educated in medical nutrition therapy and cannot prescribe diets in disease states. This includes both in individual or group dietary interventions.

Nutritionists are only able to provide advice for general health issues such as weight management, nutrition across the life cycle, or nutrition in various dietary choices (such as veganism and vegetarianism). Nutritionists are also only able to work in the community healthcare setting and are unable to work in clinical settings such as hospitals or aged care facilities.

It is important to point out that, due to enhanced education, all APDs are automatically Accredited Nutritionists and are able to provide all of the services a nutritionist can provide.

 What Is The Difference Between A Dietitian And A Nutritionist?

What is the aim of dietitians and nutritionists?

The aim of both nutritionists and dietitians is to help individuals achieve optimal health and wellbeing through enhancing nutrition. The main difference between a dietitian (only those with the APD title) and a nutritionist is that APDs have gone on to further study and are qualified to provide medical nutrition therapy to individuals and to groups.

How come APDs are also Accredited Nutritionists?

APDs can provide all the services of a nutritionist (as they themselves are also Accredited Nutritionists) and can provide nutritional education and therapy in a greater range of conditions and diseases.

APDs performance is also continually monitored and they are required to complete continual education. APDs are bound by a Code of Ethics, and those who do not comply (as well as those who do not complete the required continual professional development) lose their APD title. APDs are also registered with Medicare, DVA and most health funds; whereas, nutritionists are not. This means rebates may be available for appointments with an APD and your health care provider may also subsidise the cost of the appointment.

Find out more 

If you are currently seeing a dietitian and are unsure if they are an APD, please visit DAA for a full list of current Accredited Practising Dietitian.