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.
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.