Nutrition advice from a registered practitioner extends beyond healthy eating tips. A fully qualified accredited practitioner is trained in human nutrition, anatomy and physiology and how different systems of the body interact. This is called systems biology. They also use an evidence base for research and practice so are trained in critical thinking skills, helping them to distinguish between credible evidence and poor studies. Worryingly, anyone can give nutrition advice without comprehensive training and the titles of nutrition practitioner, nutritional therapist and nutritionist are not currently protected titles. This is bad news for both practitioners and clients.
What is the difference between a nutritional therapist and a nutritionist?
Nutritionists and nutritional therapists are similar but in theory nutritionists are trained to apply scientific knowledge to research, policy and education on healthy eating. Some nutritionists may also be trained in the clinical application of nutrition.
Nutritional therapists are trained to use a functional medicine approach. This involves looking at the body as a whole, and not just focusing on one symptom, which enables us to support the root of an issue. We are also trained in how to interpret functional tests and advise people on a one-to-one basis on how nutrition may support their health goals.
Requirements have recently changed for those training in nutritional therapy and from September 2020 you’ll need a BSc or higher degree to become a member of BANT.
How do you know you’re speaking to someone reputable?
When choosing a nutrition practitioner such as a nutritional therapist, it’s important they are registered with a professional body to maintain standards, integrity and accountability. For nutritional therapists, this is the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) or the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). The CNHC was set up by the government to protect the public and has an Accredited Voluntary Register (AVR) for the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA). For a nutritional therapist to register they must have completed a course accredited by the Nutritional Therapy Education Commission (NTEC) and the AFN (Association for Nutrition). They also have to be insured and complete at least 30 hours per year of extra training (continued professional development) to keep up to date with current findings.
What do all those letters mean?
You may have noticed most registered practitioners display letters after their name which refers to their qualification, for example, MSc (Master of Science) or Dip ION. This refers to their qualification and place of study. They might also list their registered professional body after their name like BANT or CNHC.
Requirements have recently changed for those training in nutritional therapy and from September 2020 you’ll need a BSc or higher degree to become a member of BANT. A degree in nutrition alone does not qualify you to work with clients in a clinical setting. A qualified practitioner will have trained to work therapeutically and safely with supplements, being aware of interactions with medication and health conditions as well as knowledge of safe upper limits.
An important part of our work is piecing together the parts of our clients’ health and wellness puzzle using our clinical skills backed by scientific evidence. We also recognise the importance of lifestyle and how this can impact someone’s health goal.
If you would like to find a registered nutrition practitioner visit https://bant.org.uk .
Kate Dimmer is a Cheltenham based registered Nutritional Therapist (BANT, CNHC) with an MSc (distinction) from the University of Worcester. She works with individuals of all ages and has a particular interest in gut health, hormone balance and family nutrition. Kate provides individually tailored nutrition recommendations, coaching, recipes, cooking and shopping advice. She also gives workshops and talks and writes articles on diet and lifestyle.