& Joannie Dobbs Wednesday,
February 18, 1998
Check out nutritional credentials
Whether you want to lose weight, learn how to eat a “heart-healthy” diet, deal with newly diagnosed diabetes, or fuel your body to run your fastest 10K run, it is easier with a knowledgeable and supportive nutrition professional as your guide. Where do you find these guides? Depending on your personal needs, the best options can vary.
First, a word of caution about experts in all fields. Some experts are for real and some are merely self-proclaimed. Just as all doctors and lawyers are not created equal, not all nutrition experts are created equal.
Here's how to sort the true professionals from the charlatans.
In the broadest sense, the field of nutrition includes food science, physiology, and biochemistry along with some sociology, cultural anthropology, psychology, medicine, and political science. Individual nutritionists typically specialize in some way that incorporates a few of these disciplines.
Registered Dietitians are specifically trained in nutrition and food service. They must hold at least a bachelor's degree, complete a clinical internship, and pass a national credentialing exam. Thus, the RD credential identifies an individual who has been trained in nutrition and may specialize in certain areas such as diabetes, renal care, etc.
Certified Nutrition Specialists (CNS) require master's or doctor related fields plus experience in research, education, clinical nutrition, and/or scholarly publication. The professional with the CNS credential has been specifically trained in nutrition science and typically has a particular area of specialization.
Other qualified health and fitness professionals may include nutrition as part of their work. For example, a clinical psychologist working with eating disordered individuals will incorporate nutrition counseling into their practice. A fitness professional working with athletes or people losing weight will include nutrition counseling on how to best fuel the body for the objectives of the individual. Finding the right professional depends on your needs.
If you are dealing with diabetes, see a Certified Diabetes Educator. These individuals will have the CDE credential after their name. They have been trained specifically to counsel diabetics on nutrition, exercise, and other factors that can affect the condition. Those with the CDE credential can include physicians, physician assistants, pharmacists, registered nurses and dieticians, podiatrists, physical therapists, and other allied health professionals with a minimum of a master's degree in specific related disciplines such as nutrition, exercise physiology, social work, clinical psychology, or health education.
Reasonable programs for losing and keeping off weight must include guidance on diet and physical activity. The list of those who do this well is long. It includes nutritionists and dietitians, exercise specialists with various types of certification, and health educators. Among the exercise-related certifications are the American College of Sports Medicine certifications and the American Council on Exercise with certification as a Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant.
If you are looking for information on how herbs relate to nutrition, Certified Clinical Nutritionist is a certification to look for. CNNs are more likely to incorporte what is now called complementary and alternative medicine into their nutrition practice.
Certification generally requires professionals to keep their knowledge up to date with testing every 2 to 3 years. Question nutrition professionals about their certification and how to keep up to date.
Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S. and Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.
are nutritionists in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences,
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, UH-Manoa.
Dr. Dobbs also works with the University Health Service
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Human Nutrition, Food & Animal Sciences · University of Hawai`i at Mānoa
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