Why Dietitians Are the Real Deal

If you are a fairly consistent reader of mine then you know that there is no love lost between myself and folks like Dr. Oz, or Foodbabe.  I thought it might be time for me to elaborate on why I feel how I know that dietitians are THE Nutrition Professionals, and furthermore why I, and many of my RD (Registered Dietitian) counterparts get so frustrated by having to “compete” with misinformed physicians, trainers, and “nutritionists”.

1.) To become a RD you need to complete curriculum for a bachelors degree in dietetics – A didactic program- approved by the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.  At this time an undergraduate student will likely be exposed to not only courses of biochem, physiology, anatomy, and bio, but courses on courses on courses of nutrition- varying from food service (ordering/inventory/menu planning/food safety), to understanding community nutrition, and those programs (SNAP, WIC) etc, to basic nutrition, and understanding how nutrition impacts the body as a whole and how it influences different disease processes- and understanding the disease processes.  On the other side of the coin medical schools MAYBE offer one nutrition course during the duration of study.

You apply from this point to get into a supervised practice program or an internship.  You pray everyday that you are accepted because “THIS IS YOUR PLAN” .  Upon ideally be matched into an internship you will start your supervised practice experience under the guidance of an internship director and organized rotations of various preceptors (professionals that work specifically in one area- i.e. Clinical Dietitian at a hospital, Food Service Director at a Long Term Care Facility) you will be paired with them for a specified number of weeks where you can learn more about their job, daily tasks and ideally perform them by the end of your weeks at specific site or rotation.

Depending on the type of internship will depend on how long it lasts.  There are internships that offer just the internship portion (1200 hours of supervised practice) those last about 9-11 months.  Then there are those that offer the internship and a masters degree (12-24 months).  I did one of these, my program lasted 15 months.  Upon completion of this internship you are eligible to take the RD exam.  The exam covers everything from clinical nutrition, to food service, to laws involving nutrition etc.  The goal here is that you retain a lot of what will become redundant information for a short period of time to pass a test.

At least in Chicago the job market is pretty competitive- so unless you know someone who will sign off on your notes- you will typically not find a lot of opening that will accept someone who doesn’t have the RD credential yet.  Once you have passed then the hunt for a job really begins.  This is where a RD can really hone in on a specialty- I personally chose Diabetes or Diabetes chose me.

**The moral to that extensive story is that to become an RD you require at least 5 years of education that is very focused on nutrition.

2) Like physicians, RDs can select a specialty- Diabetes, Renal (kidney) disease, Geriatrics, Weight management/loss etc RDs in these areas who have achieved additional certifications were able to demonstrate expertise in a specific area (and how it is influenced by nutrition, and other systems of the body).

3) Dietitians are educated on evidence, we are taught pathophysiology of disease processes and how they can be impacted by nutrition, exercise, certain medications, and other lifestyle changes

dr. oz

4) Dietitians are ideally positioned to work with doctors, nurses, and other health care providers to provide people multi-faceted and individualized care.  Because lets face it good health begins and ends with good nutrition.

To play devils advocate many people argue that dietitians who are not clinical are not real nutrition professionals to that I say there are Doctors who take an interest in nutrition and make the time to educate their patients on it using evidence based methods and information.

The reason why dietitians are THE ONLY nutrition professionals is because it is a profession that offers immense versatility but specialization and focus at the same time.  For instance I personally specialize in Diabetes management.  However I have training in food service and community nutrition programs.

So for me personally – it really burns my biscuits when people like Dr. Oz and Foodbabe who have no real training in nutrition yet take small shreds of fact and in turn whip them into a frenzy that excites people into buying products- or in the case of food babe attacking food companies.  Stick to your day jobs please and thanks.

My main issue with ANYONE who doles out nutrition advice who is not trained in the area of nutrition- is this: Nutrition is a science, understanding how it works in the body, and understanding basic nutrients, and food components – all of it- it is a science.  It takes training.  ANYONE can google multiple ingredients and find out what they are derived from.  Additionally anyone can take one shred of fact and spin it into a frenzy.  Additionally Dr. Oz is not known for having Dietitians on his show- because there should not be a self-respecting dietitian that could support his fad diets, weight loss products, and voodoo medicine in general     he is known for having other medical professionals on his show and “nutritionists” – not the same as a RD, who agree to his sensationalized points.  Another thing is while there have been some press recently stating that Dr. Oz’s name has been attached to products that he did not give permission to be associated with- he does associated his name with a lot of things that are not truly evidence based: fad diets, and “fat burning” supplements to name a few.

Don’t get me wrong- there are nutrition professionals who are not necessarily dietitians – I had several professors that were total “academics” they had a masters degree and Ph.D in nutrition and did nutrition research, they taught nutrition, they stayed current on trends, and research on nutrition- but they never sat for the RD credential.

In closing – the reason I started this blog (one of them) was to promote the role nutrition has in preventing and managing diseases.  I think the ideal messenger on how this is done is the RD.   Just because you like to play with matches does not mean you are a fire fighter, or put a band aid on a cut that you are a surgeon.  Take that into consideration the next time Dr. Oz launches his newest craze.  Get your nutrition data from a RD.

The End.

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