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Nutritionists are individuals who have studied the science of nutrition . Many nutritionists have a master's or doctoral degree in nutrition science and conduct research on food safety, eating habits, or the impact of food and nutrition on health. Some nutritionists are registered dietitians (RDs). An RD is a health professional who is trained to provide reliable nutrition advice and care in a variety of settings. In many states, nutritionists must be licensed or certified to practice in clinical and community settings. These licensed or certified nutritionists must meet the same requirements as an RD. Otherwise, many people with little or no education in nutrition science may be called nutritionists or nutrition counselors.

States regulate nutrition and dietetic professionals by one or more of the following methods:

  • Licensing. Licensing statutes explicitly define the scope of practice, and it is illegal to practice without first obtaining a license from the state.
  • Statutory certification. Certification statutes limit the use of particular titles to persons meeting predetermined requirements. However, persons who are not certified may still practice the occupation or profession as long as they do not use the particular titles.
  • Registration. This is the least restrictive form of state regulation. As with certification, unregistered persons may be permitted to practice the profession if they do not use the state-recognized title. Typically, exams are not given and enforcement of the registration requirement is minimal.

Many state licensure boards use the qualifications established by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) Commission on Dietetic Registration to establish who may practice in the discipline. These standards require that an individual:

  1. Complete a bachelors degree and course work approved by the ADA Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education
  2. Complete accredited and supervised practice components of at least 900 hours in clinical, community, and food-service settings
  3. Pass a national exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration
  4. Complete continuing professional education requirements to maintain licensure or registration.

see also Careers in Dietetics; Dietitian.

Catherine Christie

Internet Resources

American Dietetic Association. "Becoming a Registered Dietitian." Available from <>

American Dietetic Association. "State Professional Regulation." Available from <>

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Nutrition is the study of food, essential nutrients, and other substances in food and their effects on the body in relation to health and disease. It concerns how we eat, digest, absorb, use, and excrete the many components of food. The study of nutrition encompasses psychological and social perspectives as well as biochemical and physiological approaches.

Nutritionists work in many different settings. Public health nutritionists may focus on developing programs to improve the nutritional status of specific populations, such as expectant mothers or the elderly. Community nutritionists may counsel individuals how to improve their diets, or develop educational materials on nutrition. These types of nutritionists often work for governmental agencies. They usually have obtained a bachelor's degree in nutrition, and often have advanced degrees, such as a master's degree in public health or science.There are also many opportunities in nutrition research, usually in a university or research institute. Nutritional epidemiologists, for example, study associations between nutrient intake and disease incidence in populations. Nutritional biochemists investigate how too little or too much of specific nutrients, both essential and nonessential, affect metabolic pathways and the development of various diseases. These positions require a B.S. in a biological science, with a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) in nutrition or closely related field.

Dietitians have completed a B.S. in nutrition from an accredited program and completed an approved internship, as certified by the American Dietetics Association. Dietitians often work in hospitals or clinics providing nutritional services to patients. They also manage food service operations in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and universities.

Since nutrition is a biological science, high school courses in math and the sciences are necessary. Strong communication and computer skills are also extremely important. In college, nutrition degrees include courses in chemistry, physiology, and biochemistry, similar to other biological majors.

Daniel D. Gallaher

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Nutritionists plan food and nutrition programs, and supervise the preparation and serving of meals. They help prevent and treat illnesses by promoting healthy eating habits, scientifically evaluating clients' diets, and offering advice on weight loss, cholesterol reductions, or other diet-related concerns. Nutritionists can be teachers, researchers, health care workers, or managers. They might also direct experiments to find alternative food or diet recommendations.

A nutritionist should be able to read and write recipes and solve mathematics and science problems. Due to the variety of roles a nutritionist can have, their math knowledge should be varied. Menu planning and recipe development require basic arithmetic. Those who work as management nutritionists, overseeing large-scale meal planning and preparation in health care facilities, will also need to know basic geometry. This includes percentages, ratios and proportions, and volume. Nutritionists who work in research conduct scientific tests, and should have a solid understanding of

algebra, geometry, and calculus.

see also Percent; Ratio, Rate, and Proportion.

Marilyn Schwader


Hurwitz, Sue. The World of Work: Choosing a Career in Nutrition. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 1997.

Wilson, Robert F. Your Career in Nutrition. Happague, NY: Barrons Educational Series, 1996.

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nutritionist According to the US Department of Labor, Dictionary of Occupational Titles, one who applies the science of nutrition to the promotion of health and control of disease, instructs auxiliary medical personnel, and participates in surveys. Not legally defined in the UK, but there is a Register of Accredited Nutritionists maintained by the Nutrition Society. See also dietitian.

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nu·tri·tion·ist / n(y)oōˈtrish(ə)nist/ • n. a person who studies or is an expert in nutrition.