Dig deep for informed choices

Written by Rhian Hunter

Social platforms and the rise of influencers upended the domination of gatekeepers across every industry, from beauty to education, from food to health, meaning more voices could get a seat at the table.

However, the question is, should everyone at the table deserve to be there? Success and authority in professions have quickly become more been aligned with follower size and popularity, rather than having any credentials or qualifications to make informed recommendations.

So, who do you call or turn to for professional help with your nutrition goals?

Maybe to address hormonal imbalances, cope with a food intolerance, or to get expert advice on what to eat to lose weight? ‘Nutritionist’ might seem the obvious answer, but it’s not. In the past, both dieticians and nutritionists were required to do four years of chemistry and biochemistry, pathology, anatomy and physiology, clinical medicine, as well the full four years of nutrition; so essentially an Adv Dip. Nutritional Medicine, BSC. Health Science and/or BSC. Nutrition & Dietetics are a full four-year degree.

But now, what’s frightening, is it that anyone that takes a short course: for example certificate IV in Nutrition, or fitness can call themselves, or behave like a nutritionist, recommending supplements, and offering dietary advice that may be beyond their scope of practice.

So how do you know if the person offering nutrition advice in the gym, or spruiking weight loss services via the internet is qualified? It’s not easy! With no single body that registers all practitioners with a nutrition qualification, the best bet is to check if they’re registered with one of the organisations below:

Australian Natural Therapies Association

For accreditation, nutritionists or nutrition medicine practitioners need a qualification that complies with the association’s guidelines – generally a degree such as a Bachelor of Health Sciences (Nutrition Medicine) or a three to four-year Advanced Diploma of Nutrition or Nutritional Medicine.

Naturopaths accredited with the Australian Natural Therapies Association can also offer nutrition services if they’ve majored in nutrition – typically through a degree such as the Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy).

Dietitians’ Association of Australia

Accredited Practising Dietitians (who sometimes call themselves nutritionists) are accredited by the Dietitians’ Association of Australia. To qualify as an APD takes a minimum of four years’ university study in nutrition and dietetics. It’s the dietetics qualification that separates a dietitian from someone with a degree in nutrition science alone. Dietetics is the study of how food and nutrition are used to manage or treat health problems.

It pays to look into the credentials of any person offering to help you in the field of nutrition and health. Ask where they gained their qualifications on nutrition and how long it took them. Have they done a few days as part of an MLM supplement training? Or have they spent several years studying the body and the biochemistry of nutrients at university or college? And the next time an Instagram influencer posts a picture of them looking healthy in their active wear with some copy and pasted product facts in their caption, please dig deeper before hitting the shop now button.

It’s important to note that many Health Coaches or Personal Trainers who have completed a certificate IV in Nutrition can advertise themselves as a Nationally Recognised Nutritionist under NCA (Nutrition Council Australia) Scope of Practice, only. If you are confused by how that differs from the above associations, then the key words here are: SCOPE OF PRACTICE. People with this qualification are only able to provide advice to healthy clients who are deemed to be ‘no risk’ or who have been cleared of any current or potential health conditions or chronic diseases by a GP. They are not able to take detailed medical history or to interpret medical test results. They are able to design an athlete’s diet, support athletes to adopt principles of sports psychology, provide nutritional information to athletes, and assess and promote a client’s social, emotional and physical wellbeing.

Your health matters so ensure you do your research when deciding who’s treating it, or influencing what you do with it.