Anyone can call themselves a ‘Nutritionist’. This is probably why people are often confused about what food and nutrition messages are actually true and evidence-based. It’s also the reason why I often find myself explaining to individuals that you do not need to ‘detox’, or avoid foods that cause acidity within the body, or use coconut oil in everything!
Currently in the UK, due to a lack of regulation, anyone can set up and practice as a nutritionist, meaning there is no real protection for consumers. The fab team at ‘Fight the Fads’ have started a petition that aims to make the title ‘Nutritionist’ a protected term and provide protection for the title of ‘Registered Nutritionist’.
So why should you seek food and nutrition advice from a Registered Nutritionist?
Registered Nutritionists can be found on the Association for Nutrition’s UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN). This register distinguishes nutrition practitioners who meet rigorously applied training, competence and professional practice criteria. Its purpose is to protect the public and assure the credibility of nutrition as a responsible profession.
All Registered Nutritionists have a minimum of degree-level nutrition science, with many, like myself, having a Masters degree and PhD in nutrition too. They also have approximately 3+ years professional experience, have committed to provide only evidence-based information and abide by a strict code of ethics regarding the advice they give out about nutrition (See: the AfN Standards of Ethics, Conduct and Performance).
The title of ‘dietitian’ is legally protected and all dietitians have completed one of the Health & Care Professions Council approved degree programmes and will be on the HCPC register.
Unfortunately, the term ‘nutritionist’ is not legally protected. As a result, there are many ‘nutritionists’, ‘nutrition advisors’, ‘nutritional therapists’ and ‘diet experts’ providing advice and information on nutrition. The amount of unregulated and often misleading or incorrect nutrition advice available on social media and on the internet is concerning. Ensuring that only those with a degree or equivalent in food and nutrition are able to give nutrition advice could vastly reduce the misinformation that the general public are often faced with.
The easiest way to check for nutritional information you can trust is to look out for the initials ANutr or RNutr. A new nutrition graduate with less than 3 years’ experience can register as a Registered Associate Nutritionist and use ‘ANutr’ after their name. Once an individual has gained professional experience and can demonstrate sustained evidence-based application of their knowledge in professional practice they can register as a Registered Nutritionist (RNutr).
Raising awareness of the UK’s Voluntary Register of Nutritionists is key to helping people understand where to go for accurate, evidence-based advice. This is why this petition is important.
The petition currently has just over 6,000 signatures and has had some great coverage in The Metro and the Huffington Post. If you’d like to help get the term ‘Nutritionist’ protected and get the petition up to 10,000 signatures, please sign and share it with your social networks.