Why see a Registered Dietitian?

Fun fact about me: I wanted to be a paleontologist until I found out that nutrition was a career option. In grade school my mom took me to a book fair, and I choose the giant encyclopedia of food and nutrition. I choose my undergraduate college based on their dietetics program; and was grateful to know for so long that I wanted to help others via nutrition.

In my opinion, the two main reasons to see a Registered Dietitian (RD)/Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) are:

  1. To manage a disease or condition; and/or prevent risk of disease
  2. Registered Dietitians are the only group of nutrition professionals recognized as experts in the field by the government, hospitals, and insurance companies

Yes, I am a RD. Yes, I went through the sweat and tears of the process (if you’re a RD, I imagine you are currently nodding your head yes at your computer). Yes, that makes me slightly biased in the determination of a “nutrition professional.” Still, the following reasons speak truth to the beneficial purpose of meeting with a Registered Dietitian.

  1. You want to follow a healthy diet, but you do not know how. Navigating nutrition through constant
    information on social media is confusing. Registered Dietitians provide education and treatment
    through evidence-based science. A RD can clarify myth versus fact.
  2. You have one of the following conditions: Diabetes, Pre-diabetes, Metabolic syndrome, Obesity,
    Hypertension, High cholesterol, Atherosclerosis, Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Osteoporosis,
    Overactive bladder syndrome, Interstitial cystitis, Kidney stones.
    Dietary changes are a first-line
    treatment for managing these conditions.
  3. You have family history of heart disease or diabetes. According to the World Health Organization, 80%
    of Heart Disease, Stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes and 40% of cancer could be prevented, primarily with
    improvements to diet and lifestyle.
  4. You want to reduce your risk of cancer. While research remains inconclusive, some evidence suggests
    that diets high in antioxidants and phytochemicals may reduce risk of certain cancers. For example, research has found a decrease in cancer cell proliferation in patients with prostate cancer that follow nutrient rich diets.
  5. You want practical advice. Dietitians are more than educators, they are also counselors. Dietitians
    understand that life can be messy, and they will work with you to find a plan that fits for your lifestyle

What is the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a “Nutritionist”?

Registered Dietitians are nutritionists, but nutritionists are not Registered Dietitians. Let me explain.

In many states, including Massachusetts, anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist”. However, to have the title of Registered Dietitian, you must meet the following qualifications:

• Bachelor of Science in Nutrition or Dietetics (Effective 2024, all new grads will be required to have a Masters Degree)
• Fulfill all requirements to obtain a Certificate in the Didactic Program in Dietetics
• Complete an extensive and competitive supervised practice program/internship at healthcare facilities and community or government agencies
• Pass a rigorous exam to obtain RD credentials
• Maintain continuing education credits annually
• Reapply for national registration annually
• Massachusetts insurance companies also require Registered Dietitians to be licensed by the state, this
is another process that requires specific qualifications
• Some Dietitians hold specialty certifications. These certifications require at least 2,000 hours of experience in the specialty, as well as passing another intensive exam.

References: American Heart Association, European Society for the management of arterial hypertension, American Association of Clinical Endocrinology, Canadian Medical Association, Commission of Dietetic Registration

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