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What is Dietetics?

The study of the relationship between nutrition and health is called dietetics.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2014
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Dietetics is the study of the relationship between nutrition and health. Dietitians specialize in applying their knowledge to issues ranging from prescription diets for people suffering from specific medical conditions to recommendations which are designed to improve the health of entire communities through dietary changes. This branch of the medical field has a number of applications, including clinical treatment, research, and community outreach.

Individuals who practice dietetics usually have a bachelor's degree at a minimum, and many complete licensure requirements so that they can become registered dietitians. In many nations, the term “registered dietitian” is protected by law, and only people who have satisfied certain requirements may use it. A dietitian may also use the term “nutritionist,” although it is possible for someone to be a nutritionist without having a background in dietetics.

What people eat can have a profound impact on their level of general health. Dietitians study nutritional needs at all stages of life, and in a variety of settings, so that they can understand the unique nutritional needs of specific patients, as well as nutritional trends in particular communities. A 90 year old woman has very different dietary requirements than a 25 year old male athlete, and a dietitian can determine what those needs are, and what the best source of nutrition might be.

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Some dietitians work in hospitals and other clinical environments, working with specific patients. They can prescribe meal plans to help manage and prevent disease, and they can also prescribe enteral nutrition to patients who cannot eat normally. In clinical settings, dietitians work with doctors and other members of the medical team to ensure that their patients receive the best and most appropriate treatment.

Dietetics is also used in residential facilities such as colleges and nursing homes to ensure that residents get the nutrition they need, and in facilities such as schools and cafeterias, to provide a balanced, healthy diet which will promote health among customers. Dietitians are also an important part of public outreach programs related to nutrition, utilizing their skills to explain how people can eat healthier diets and maintain health. Research dietitians work in labs and similar settings to research nutrition, health, and emerging issues which pertain to the field.

A career in dietetics can be very interesting. Candidates who are interested in working in this field should be interested in science, medicine, and food, and it helps to have good people skills and excellent communication abilities.

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manykitties2
Post 7

I went shopping for a weight loss book earlier and was surprised to see how many of the people did not have background in dietetics. Often they were personal trainers, or wellness coaches who had branched out into recommending food.

I think that choosing a fitness book by a personal trainer is great, but I would prefer to get my dieting information separately, and from an actual dietician.

Has anyone ever purchased a diet book that gave you poor information, or actually wanted you to do things that were dangerous?

I came a cross a few books where the restrictions looked like they would make you sick very quickly.

letshearit
Post 6

If you have weight issues it is a good idea to see a registered dietician before grabbing the nearest diet book and getting started.

Often dieticians who have studied dietetics have a much different view of healthy foods than mainstream diet books. You would be surprised how much they actually let you eat if you stick to their healthy plans. Even with the increase of food, you will still be able to shed weight, due to the makeup of what is going in your mouth.

A real dietician is vital to making sure you have a balanced intake of nutrition and that you are healthy. Your family doctor can usually refer you to a good dietician

angelBraids
Post 5

@Penzance356 - I think that completing culinary school and getting some work experience is the perfect way to prepare for one of the many options available in the dietetics career path.

You would probably need to study the subject specifically, but then the sky would be the limit. I would say that the anyone combining the two would be very employable in many of the dietetic job options the article mentions.

I would much rather have advice on food from someone who knew how to cook and what works well together. Plus it would be easier to develop varied and tasty menus if that was required.

Penzance356
Post 4

Do you think that a long career as a chef would be a help or a hinderance if someone applied to a dietetic school?

Someone asked me this the other day, sparking a long debate about how much people who cook for a living actually know, or care, about nutrition.

In my opinion this all depends on what type of training they had initially. But at the end of the day I suppose most chefs are concerned more with taste and presentation than the nutritional benefits of their food.

SkyWhisperer
Post 3

I’m a great believer in the connection between nutrition and health. While I’m not a dietician myself, I do stay informed on health issues. I think the fact that the medical profession has opened its arms to dieticians is proof positive that they believe there is a nutritional link to a lot of medical ailments.

They may not accept the premise that every disease has its roots in nutrition-I don’t think they’ve gone that far, at least not yet. But they do admit that there is a need for a high-fiber diet, as one example, as prevention against a possible onset of many different kinds of ailments later on in life.

I get a lot of useful information from the American Dietetic Association, which provides useful tips on a variety of subjects like disease prevention and weight loss, to name a few.

MrMoody
Post 2

@anon154804 - A dietetic's salary is usually in the 40K to 60K range from what I understand. They are not doctors and so don’t make the kind of astronomical money that a doctor can make, but their services are very much needed.

The dieticians who work in educational research earn on the higher end of the salary scale while those in the clinics earn on the lower end.

Also, location and years of experience play a role in salary too, as they would in any profession. I have a sister who’s a dietician and she makes pretty good money working at a state university.

anon154804
Post 1

how much do they earn monthly?

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