A qualified choice

Some people are confused about the different terms used by nutrition practitioners, which leads to misunderstandings of different diet concepts and recommendations, so it might help to explain.

Dieticians work for the NHS, so if your doctor thinks you need to change your diet you’ll most likely be sent to a dietician, someone who is expert in supporting people to transition to a standard evidence-based NHS protocol diet. These diets are formulated based on evidence from population studies and randomised controlled trials – in a similar way to drugs. For example you might be put on a special diet for diabetes or heart disease, but although they might give you a diet based on your height and weight, it will otherwise be on large scale studies that are not open to personalisation. They tend to follow the government guidelines for healthy eating. In some cases dieticians are allowed to adjust medication. They are statutorily regulated which means they are governed and protected by law and bound to an ethical code of practice, and they are always educated to BSc level or above.

You may also come across other health professionals, like your personal trainer, who can give you broad brush diet advice. Again, although they may adapt your diet to your activity levels, they are not trained to take individual genes and biochemistry into account.

Nutritionists (as distinct from nutritional therapists) typically work for public bodies, corporations or the government within research, industry or education – advising on matters of health and nutrition and providing information for the public or employers. The title is not protected by law so their education and training may vary widely. There is a voluntary register where you can check qualifications and insurance details. Not many nutritionists work with individuals.

Nutritional therapists tend to work primarily with individuals. Although they are not subject to state (statutory) regulation, (which means that anyone can call themselves a nutritional therapist) most qualified nutritionists choose to be registered with and abide by the standards of the voluntary registration organisation, CNHC, which has strict professional standards, ethics and a code of conduct for members which is very similar to the statutory regulator. Also, the CNHC is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care , the same body that regulates medical professionals, so looking out for CNHC registration is a reasonable guarantee of quality. Nutritionists tend to work with individuals to achieve improved fitness, prevent disease or to minimise symptoms of a developed disease and ameliorate contributing factors. Critically, NTs recognise that every individual is unique and has a personal set of dietary requirements which depends on their genes, biochemistry, lifestyle and environment. Our recommendations are evidence-based too, taking into account clinical trials but also using functional testing and clinical experience to arrive at a more individual diet. There is a wide range of courses available for nutritional therapists and educational standards and experience can vary widely. As a minimum you need to find someone who is registered and insured – if you want to be fully confident that you are in safe hands there are key things to look out for:

  • NTC/NTEC registration is considered to be the key organisation for registration of ‘nutritional therapists’. They have their own code of ethics, a complaints procedure and a rigorous registration process.
  • CNHC registration (Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council) requires a high level of training set by the Nutritional Therapy National Occupational Standards and the Nutritional Therapy Core Curriculum. Although it is a voluntary register it is used by other professional bodies as a sign of excellence. The CNHC was established with Department of Health funding and their key purpose is to protect the public. Members of the CNHC are recognised by the Professional Standards Authority, the regulatory body that oversees statutorily regulated health professionals.
  • BANT is the professional body for registered nutritional therapists dedicated to raising and maintaining standards in the profession. Members are required to complete a minimum number of hours or professional development each year.
  • IFM membership is not so much a regulatory body as a way of practicing. Functional medicine is being used increasingly by medical doctors and complementary medical practitioners around the world as way to prevent and reverse chronic illness. Dr Rangoon Chatterjee is one of the best known advocates in the UK.
  • The level of education of your therapist will give you an indication of how comfortable they are digging into the evidence, or the science, relating to your particular situation. Realistically, the level of qualification you choose may depend on the complexity of the health challenge you are facing. The ION Diploma is a highly regarded, evidence- based training programme but if you are seeking more specialist help then you may want to find someone with a BSc. Some form of post-graduate qualification is even better – showing that they have mastered the art of objectively evaluating scientific evidence for themselves.
  • As long as your practitioner is registered with the organisations mentioned above, clinical experience may be just as valuable as education because of the requirement for ongoing professional development. There really is no substitute for experience when it comes to working with human beings, so the best practitioners will have a reassuring combination of education and experience.

As you would expect, my credentials tick all of the above boxes which is only possible as a result of many years of hard work and dedicated study. I list them below for completeness.

  • BSc (Hons) Management Sciences – UMIST
  • Dip. ION (Distinction) Nutritional Therapy – Institute for Optimum Nutrition
  • Certified Professional Coach – International Coach Academy
  • Pg Cert: Masters level postgraduate certificate: CNELM reading for an MSc in Personalised Nutrition (focussed on breast cancer).
  • NTCC – Registered with the  Nutritional Therapy Council
  • BANT – Member of the British Association for Nutritional Therapists
  • CNHC – Member of the Complementary and Natural HealthCare Council
  • mIFM – Member of Institute of Functional Medicine
  • Founder member of the British Society of Integrated Oncology
  • Private clinical practice established in August 2003
  • Five years teaching experience at ION – foundation degree programme

I hope that makes you feel that you would be in a safe pair of hands working with me. If so, please visit my consult page to find out more about how we might work together.