Dietetics is the application of the science of nutrition to the construction of diets and the selection and preparation of foods, in health and disease. A dietitian will have undertaken training in a hospital and/or community setting as part of his/her course and is specially trained to give practical advice to individuals about their diets. Many dietitians are employed in the NHS, and they work with both healthy and sick people, as well as their families. With patients who need special diets, dietitians use their scientific knowledge to provide practical information that is appropriate to the patient’s medical history and lifestyle.
These days a considerable proportion of dietitians spend some or all of their time working in the community rather than in a hospital. Many of these are eligible to apply for registration in public health nutrition as well as being registered dietitians (RD). In the community, the dietitian’s work is more about health education, although many also run clinics in doctors’ surgeries for people who need specialist dietary counselling. Dietitians also work in research, the food industry, government, the media and education. Information about freelance dietitians is available from the Freelance Dietitians Group of the British Dietetic Association (http://www.bda.uk.com). The group has a website at http://www.dietitiansunlimited.co.uk
It is necessary to have a degree (BSc or MSc) in nutrition and dietetics to work as a dietitian. The British Dietetic Association has information about qualifying as a dietitian at http://www.bda.uk.com/ent.html Both undergraduate and postgraduate routes exist for qualifying as a dietitian.
Last reviewed September 2009. Next review due December 2013