Who Are The Nutrition Experts? // Feed That Nation: The Podcast

Hello! My name is Natalie Nation, and
you’re listening to Feed That Nation. In today’s podcast, I’m going to be
answering the question: “Who are our nutrition experts?” Now this is a super
loaded question, so it’s gonna take me a bit to get into it. I’m gonna start by
talking about different types of nutrition experts and other nutrition…
people out there. And I’ll be talking about the kinds of training that
different types of people go through, scope of practice, and I’ll be going
through types of nutrition experts to definitely go to for advice, and which
ones you might want to steer clear of. Before I get started, please go ahead and
subscribe on YouTube, Apple, Spotify, or whatever podcast platform you are
listening or watching on. Please go ahead and give me a review, leave me a comment
give me a five star rating. I would love to hear from you guys about how you’re
enjoying my podcast. So there are several different kinds of nutrition experts out
there. The one I probably talk about the most is the Registered Dietitian.
That is the program that I am currently in, I’m studying to become a registered
dietitian right now, so obviously I have a little bit of a bias in there. But
registered dietitians are THE nutrition experts. In order to become a registered
dietitian, you need to complete a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or
Dietetics. You need to complete an internship that includes
1200 supervised clinical practice hours, and you need to pass the certification
exam before you can use the title “RD”. Along with that, in order to continue to
practice as a registered dietitian, you need to maintain your credentials by
getting 75 CEUs or continuing education credits every three years. Another title
that a lot of people confuse with dietitian is Nutritionist. And
nutritionists… it can kind of depend. Some states, and the licensure for
nutritionists is by state and not nationally recognized, so some states like Minnesota require that anyone who calls themself a
nutritionist to have completed at least a master’s degree, sometimes a doctorate,
and you need to have completed a certain number of internship hours in the field,
and you need to pass a certification exam. In other states the laws are a
little bit looser, so some states only require that you have a bit of education.
Some states only require that you pass a certification exam. And some states don’t
have any requirements at all for who can and who can’t call themselves a
nutritionist. It’s kind of a mixed bag, actually. Nutritionist is also sometimes
a confusing term because it can refer to someone who is studying nutrition, so a
nutrition student or a scholar, a nutrition researcher or expert so
someone who has spent their life studying nutrition, or it can refer to
someone who practices as a nutrition counselor or a coach. To make it even
more complicated, sometimes people with the registered dietitian credential have
instead of “RD” they have “RDN” or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Oh man.
So those are the two that people have heard of most often. When you think about
a nutrition expert, you usually probably think of a dietitian or a nutritionist. Aside from dietitians and nutritionists,
other medical professionals that receive some nutrition education and are
generally known to be knowledgeable in nutrition are doctors and chiropractors,
and occasionally physical therapists as well. In order to practice as a doctor as
we all know, a doctor must go to undergrad, complete four years of college.
They must go to medical school, that’s another four years to get their
doctorate. And then they need to complete a residency, so that’s three to seven
years of supervised practice within a clinical setting. Some doctors after that
even choose to complete a fellowship, so that’s another couple of years learning
about a subspecialty within the specialty they’ve chosen. However, doctors
do not receive a lot of formal nutrition education within any of their years of
schooling. This doesn’t mean, however, that doctors can’t research on their own time
and become knowledgeable, but it does mean that the level of nutrition
knowledge that doctors have is very individualized, and it’s not for certain
that any given doctor you talk to will have the information that
you are looking for. Chiropractors are a type of complementary and alternative
medicine practitioner. They receive a lot of training in kinesiology and
anatomy, as well as training in nutrition. This nutrition education is generally
very holistic, very much about the body and the soul and the mind, and generally
doesn’t include medical nutrition or clinical nutrition specialties in that
training, so it’s very general information. Some chiropractors, like
doctors choose to pursue additional research on their own time to learn more
about nutrition. But, just like doctors, this is going to be highly individual in
terms of what individual chiropractors know. And the same with physical
therapists. Physical therapists, in order to practice need to complete their
doctor of physical therapy. They received some nutrition education, not a lot, and
many will choose to do research on their own time to become more knowledgeable.
But again this is incredibly varied in terms of individuals. (voiceover) Completely forgot
to mention athletic training and nursing as two healthcare professions which
require a college degree and some level of nutrition training, similar to
physical therapy. Shout out to all of my friends and colleagues working in
nursing and athletic training. Other professions that receive nutrition
training are personal trainers and health coaches. Both personal
training and health coach programs require individuals to complete online
modules and other training in order to practice under that title, and that
training does generally include nutrition topics. Very basic information
but they do receive some level of education in it generally. There are also
several different nutrition certifications out there, outside of the
ones that I’ve already described, but these programs are
highly varied. Some programs require individuals to have formal education or
to complete online training. Some don’t. Some require continuing education
credits in order to stay certified. Some don’t. Some of these certifications are
recognized by individual states. Some are recognized nationally. Some aren’t. So
with a lot of these certifications it’s difficult to know what you’re getting
when you choose to talk to someone with that certification, and it’s very hard to
know what level of training they actually have, unless you do your
research. Unlike a dietitian or a doctor, whom you know has received definitely a
specific level of education, and is practicing under certain standards. So
all of these professions that I’ve talked about operate under specific
scopes of practice. A scope of practice is the level of competency, proficiency,
and expertise that these professions are required to have, and their scope of
practice will dictate the types of information and services that they are
allowed to provide for patients and clients. For example, a chiropractor
cannot prescribe medicine that is not something that they are professionally
trained to do, and it is not in their scope of practice. A personal trainer, on
the other hand cannot diagnose injuries. This is not in their scope of practice
or something that they are trained to do. A nutrition scope of practice will vary
based on profession. For example clinical dietitians are considered to be THE
experts in medical nutrition. They have received extensive education in medical
nutrition topics, have completed internship hours, have received a
certification, and are required to recertify every three years. Now the
complicated part is that a lot of times, nutrition scope of practices between
different professions will overlap. Nursing for example, a profession I did
not talk about, nurses generally complete one nutrition course during their
undergrad in the process of becoming a nurse. So they have received some formal
nutrition education, the same as dietitians. I was actually in a nutrition
class in undergrad with a lot of nurses, so we have the same base level of education there. And it’s really cool that our
professions can overlap, we both know certain things about nutrition. The same
with me and a chiropractor, or a personal trainer and a physical therapist. There’s
lots of overlaps in the scope of practice, meaning lots of information to
share. And a lot of times people with the same training or similar training in
nutrition can provide different perspectives on similar topics which i
think is so cool. Now where we run into a lot of issues with scope of practice is
kind of in two ways: either the person in the profession where they have a certain
level of nutrition education training or certification doesn’t know where the
boundaries of their scope of practice is, so they might be practicing out of their
scope of practice. Or someone who’s looking for advice might not know which
profession to go to to receive the type of advice that they need. For example a
person with Crohn’s disease or Diabetes, generally to receive adequate, helpful,
sustainable evidence-based nutrition advice, will need to go to a
dietitian or a doctor to receive that nutrition counseling and advice. On the
other hand, a generally healthy person who is just looking for some advice on
how to really amp up their wellness and their lifestyle might be able to go to a
personal trainer or a chiropractor, because they’re looking for more basic
advice and tips. And this is all super individual, and it gets so complicated.
And it’s really the responsibility of people in nutrition professions to know
where their scope of practice IS and where their scope of practice is NOT. I’ll also
include here that I as a Dietetic intern and a grad student, who has some level
of nutrition education but not any kind of professional licensure or
certification, am very limited in the types of nutrition advice that I can
provide people. I can basically provide people with very general information or
refer them to other resources, but I cannot practice medical nutrition. Eveunder the supervision of a licensed registered dietitian,
I am limited in what I can provide for patients or clients because I am not
certified. A place I see the scope of practice thing really getting muddied up
is often on social media. There are a whole bunch of… I would call them health
influencers on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat. People out there
talking about health and nutrition, either in their own lives, maybe they do
it for their professional job, maybe they’re getting paid to do it.
But it’s very difficult to tell with these health influencers what level of
education they actually hold. Usually registered dietitians or doctors are
going to say outright that they are a registered dietitian, a doctor, or
chiropractor, whatever. But other people might say not a lot. Maybe they don’t
have any kind of certification. It’s just really hard to tell. And with or without
those certifications, it’s hard to tell did they go to school for nutrition? Did
they learn all their information online? You know, what’s going on here? And that
can make it really difficult to know if the advice that these people are giving
is actually going to be useful, helpful, healthy, sustainable advice. Now here is my hot take: If someone online is actively trying to sell you supplements,
vitamins, or a diet plan, they are most likely not the person that you should be
going to to receive helpful, healthy, and sustainable nutrition advice. And the reason for this, and I say specifically people who are actively trying to sell
you things, is because these people, even if they have good intentions and genuinely
enjoy making a difference in people’s lives, also have the agenda of they want
to be making money off of you. And that means they might be recommending that
you buy things that they are selling, or you buy things that they are getting
paid to tell you to buy. So maybe a health influencer is being sponsored by
a protein bar company, or protein powder company. Regardless of whether or not
protein powder or protein bars are going to be a good fit into your personal
nutrition and health, they’re going to tell you to buy them because they
make money when you do. Another example might be someone who is a representative
at a company that sells nutrition supplements, might talk about nutrition a
lot, want to give nutrition advice, want you to buy the products of that company,
because they will make money. And it’s not that these people don’t have
incredible intentions. I know people who work for these companies and I think
they’re amazing. But it’s really difficult to parse out where the
intentions are and what sorts of advice are really going to be useful for you. I
talked about a few episodes ago what people are really asking for when they
want nutrition advice. And what they’re really wanting is that quick fix, those
quick magic answers that are gonna make everything better right away without
having to really put in the work. And most of the time these supplements, these
vitamins, these diet plans that influencers are selling are those quick
fixes. Which is really unfortunate because they’re being presented in a way
that’s super accessible, super aesthetically pleasing, super…
sometimes affordable, sometimes not affordable. You’re being enticed to buy
them by, you know, the idea of becoming just like this person that you’re
watching on Instagram or YouTube. Now all of this really just begs the question:
Who do I go to when I need nutrition advice? And the answer to that is going
to depend on what kind of advice you need. In general for most medical
conditions: diabetes, Crohn’s disease, celiac, hypertension, any kind of
metabolic disorders, any of those diagnosed nutrition issues: dietitians
are going to be your go-to, your clinical expert in the topic. Generally if you
don’t know who to see, your doctor can refer you to a dietitian, and a lot of
times with these specialized conditions: kidney disease, diabetes, dietitian
services will be covered by your insurance, which is super great. If you’re
really wanting advice about nutrition science, not so much medical advice for
your own personal health, but maybe you really want to learn about the science
of it all: dietitians have some scientific training but a lot of
nutritionists out there, those nutritionists with master’s degrees or
PhDs, who spend years and years studying nutrition topics: those people are so
knowledgeable about these specific scientific topics! I know [nutritionists] who’ve done research in fiber and I know [nutritionists] who do
research in vitamin A metabolism, and all these just super specialized, really cool
things. They do research about everything from appetite to metabolism to… literally
anything and everything and it is so cool to get to talk to them. Doctors and
chiropractors are gonna be able to give you more general advice from their
medical research standpoint. Kind of…and it’s really going to depend, like I said
earlier, on how knowledgeable they are based on their own personal interests.
Chiropractors also, as they are practitioners of complementary and
alternative medicine, also receive training in dietary supplements. So if
you’re really wanting to try a dietary supplement, chiropractors are likely
going to be some of the more knowledgeable people on those topics. You
do sometimes have to be careful because chiropractors are often also selling
dietary supplements, and if you have any kind of serious medical condition, it’s
very important to talk to a doctor, a dietitian, or a pharmacist to make sure
that none of the supplements are gonna interact with any medications that you
may be taking. If you’re wanting more generalized health and wellness advice
in the context of nutrition, then personal trainers and health coaches and
sometimes even the “other” nutrition certifications that I mentioned are
going to be able to be really good resources for you. If you’re just wanting
general tips, advice, maybe you need recipes, maybe you need ways to sneak
more protein, in your busy schedule; these people are going to be able to give you
all kinds of “normal”… I say normal with quotes around it, “normal” nutrition advice, so general nutrition advice for generally healthy people. And this is about where I
am right now in my education, I can only really talk about general nutrition for
generally healthy people, unless I’m under the direct supervision of a
licensed professional. It’s really difficult for me to provide any kind of perspective on online health influencers, just because many people
would consider me, a health podcaster, to be in that category. So take everything I
say with a grain of salt, of course, but be sure when you’re online, following
these health influencers. Heck, following me, me. looking at what these people are
saying, what kind of education they have, what their motivations may be. Are they
selling something to you? What do they gain from giving you advice or telling
you to buy a product? Really be skeptical, I always encourage people to be
skeptical and to really do their research when they’re trying to find
advice online. Especially on social media, which is where a lot of people get their
advice these days. A lot of people are finding news, health, politics, all of that
is available in social media. But with all of the true things that are out
there all the evidence-based things all the generally helpful healthful
sustainable, there’s a lot of misinformation out there, and a lot of
people who maybe generally have good intentions, but are also in it for the
money. I’ll also add here that just because a health influencer is selling
something, be it a supplement, vitamin, a diet plan…this doesn’t mean that that
plan might not work for some people. It doesn’t mean that it’s all, you know,
bogus. I don’t mean to say anything like that. But it does mean that a lot of the
things that they’re selling aren’t necessarily supported by evidence-based
clinical science. And it does mean that, you know, especially with supplements and
vitamins, those things are not regulated by the FDA, so depending on where you’re
getting them from, they might not be what they say they are. But then again, there
are people who’ve been on certain supplements for years, who follow certain
diet patterns for years, and are happy with the results they’re getting. So it’s
just all so complicated. (voiceover) Just one more note: I am NOT saying that you can’t go
to a dietitian if you just want to talk general nutrition and wellness. In fact
I’m saying the opposite! As I keep saying, dietitians are THE nutrition experts and
you will get high-quality, evidence-based information and advice. If you have the
opportunity, go see an RD! However, there are several other professions, as I’ve
discussed previously, that can also provide general nutrition advice for
generally healthy people. If you’re feeling inspired to change your
lifestyle, definitely take advantage of the resources available to you. If you liked what you heard today, please feel free to subscribe, to comment, to leave me
and review, to leave me a five star rating. Please let me know what you
thought of this episode today, I would be so excited to hear from you!
Please also go ahead and follow me on Instagram I’m @feedthatnation, and my
blog is feedthatnation.com, where I talk recipes, podcasting, photography, and
a lot of other fun stuff about my life as a graduate student. Until next time
my name is Natalie Nation and you’re listening to Feed That Nation. Have a
great day, and I’ll talk to you soon. [outro music]

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