What is a Registered Dietician?

The career of a registered dietician can be both fascinating and beneficial. They assist a variety of people and use food as a healing tool. Because there are some places in which these nutritional professionals can apply their skills, we'll explore that aspect of their work as well as provide more information about their duties.

Resource: Top 20 Online Master's in Nutrition 2016-2017

In Basic Terms

A registered dietician is a nutritional specialist that uses food to heal or mitigate diseases. In the United States, dieticians must complete at least a bachelor's degree with a supervised internship of 1200 hours or more from an accredited university or college. That education concentrates in the diagnosis of and prospective treatments for digestive disorders, allergens, nutritional deficiencies, and even weight management of several varieties. They must also pass a national exam provided by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), which provides certification of their ability to assess cases and offer treatment recommendations.

During their education, they are trained in diagnostic and research methods, biochemistry, microbiology, and human physiology. They may also investigate pharmacology, foodservice systems, culinary arts, and behavioral and social sciences. Once in practice, they utilize the latest research about food, digestion, and human health to assist their patients.

Dieticians see patients who experience health problems both directly and indirectly related to food, digestion, and even social concepts surrounding diet and eating. Their primary goal is a healthy, balanced patient. If allergies are tied to food, they will help the patient determine it and craft a diet that frees them from the complaint. Gastrointestinal disorders and diseases, weight retention or the inability to retain weight, and reproductive difficulties can also be treated with food. As well, the link between the brain and gut health has been established clearly, providing another avenue for dieticians' expertise.

Where They Work

While these nutritional experts can quickly set up a private practice, there are other forums in which their talents and knowledge provide greater benefit. They may work with Social Services as a resource for parents or guardians with children who have specific dietary needs. In a similar vein, they are often found working in a public context. Here, they advise, educate, and monitor the health and nutrition of vulnerable or marginalized populations such as impoverished or indigent communities.

Hospitals, community clinics, sports medicine clinics, assisted living facilities, and other managed communities often employ these highly trained specialists to maintain and improve the health of their community members. Dieticians might plan meal programs or assess the additional health needs of individuals within the group that are not met by the general menu.

Research contexts and private sector consultancies are attractive areas of opportunity for these nutrition specialists. They can work directly to improve scientific understanding of the relationship between food and health. At the other end of this spectrum, they can offer individual clients, such as large food service corporations, the benefit of their knowledge to improve the nutritional complement of their products.

You might be surprised at the breadth of their understanding when it comes to human health and how it can be shaped via the foods we select. The registered dietician works in many fields, but their primary goal is to improve the health of their clients—whether that is a disadvantaged community, patients in private practice, athletes, or society in general.

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