Dietitian, Nutritionist or Health Coach: Which do you need?

The Amos Institute prides itself on providing our clients with the highest educated and most experienced assistance available. For that reason we employ registered dietitians (referred to as an RD or RDN) to work with our clients on personalizing and implementing the Ketoflex Nutrition Plan. Many of our clients are curious as to the difference between a registered dietitian, a nutritionist, and a health coach, as these terms are often used incorrectly or interchangeably.

What is a Registered Dietitian?

Registered dietitians (RD), also referred to as registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN) are considered the top experts in the field of nutrition. Registered dietitians receive their credentials through the Commission on Dietetic Registration only after completing rigorous coursework and obtaining a degree in nutrition from an accredited university, completing a year long supervised practice rotation approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics, successfully passing a national examination, and maintaining continuing professional educational requirements. The term registered dietitian can only be used by an individual who has met all of these qualifications and has been formally credentialed through the Commission on Dietetic Registration.

Registered dietitians are the only nutrition professionals who are able to diagnose and treat nutrition related medical conditions. Their training includes many years of study in science and human metabolism, including advanced learning in biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, and more. As a result, registered dietitians are trained to understand the pathophysiology of disease, which allows them to successfully treat patients with a wide variety of conditions. Registered dietitians often specialize in certain fields, ranging from chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, to acute issues addressed in the intensive care unit in the hospital setting, to more behavioral nutrition related conditions like eating disorders.

What is the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a Nutritionist?

All registered dietitians are also nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. Whereas registered dietitians have fulfilled all of the above mentioned strict regulations regarding training, credentialing, and registration maintenance, nutritionists have no such accountability. Unlike registered dietitians, the term ‘nutritionist’ is not protected and can therefore be used by anyone. For example, just as only doctors (whether that be medical doctors or those holding other doctorate degrees) are permitted to utilize the term ‘doctor,’ only a registered dietitian can use the term ‘registered dietitian.’ However anyone can choose to give themselves the title of ‘nutritionist’ whether or not they have any training in the field of nutrition.

There is no regulatory institution that monitors the use of the term ‘nutritionist’ or that holds individuals working as nutritionists accountable for their actions. As a result, there are countless “nutritionists” marketing their services, publishing books and blogs, and hosting podcasts that have little or no nutrition knowledge whatsoever. Because the public is largely unfamiliar with this lack of education and experience surrounding nutritionists, this reality is dangerous.

Registered dietitians are required to follow ‘evidence based practice’ which means they are required to provide nutrition recommendations that are backed by peer reviewed research. This is unfortunately not true when working with nutritionists, resulting in ongoing confusion over many nutrition related topics.

What is a Health Coach?

Much like nutritionists, the term ‘health coach’ is not a protected title, meaning that virtually anyone can call themselves a ‘health coach’, whether or not they have any training in health or in coaching. A person using this title does not even have to have a high school diploma. Though some training programs exist that provide health coaching certifications upon completion, these programs are not vetted by one regulatory body.

Generally speaking, health coaches help patients by providing encouragement and acting as a sounding board when challenges to behavior change arise. A health coach is not qualified to advise patients on making nutritional or dietary changes, to review or interpret laboratory data, to recommend supplements, or to review your medical history.

The Amos Institute Registered Dietitians

The Amos Institute exclusively employs the highest trained registered dietitians to work with our clients on personalizing and implementing the nutrition plan needed to follow the Bredesen Protocol. Beyond the extensive training that these nutrition professionals underwent to become registered dietitians, all of the Amos Institute RDNs also hold graduate or doctoral degrees in nutrition. This exceptionally high level of education makes the Amos Institute RDNs the top experts in their field.

In addition to this education and experience, all of our registered dietitians have post graduate training in functional medicine and functional nutrition, which allows our dietitians to look beyond just your symptoms and to address the root cause of your conditions and dysfunction, which helps you receive your optimal results.

Know the training and credentials of your practitioners.

In a world with increasing types of healthcare professionals, it is imperative that you know the education, training, and credential or license of your healthcare team. This can be a challenge, because so many post nominal letters look so similar. For example, practitioners who complete the very rigorous training through the Institute for Functional Medicine which takes several years, then pass the certification examination, and then pass a case study with approval of the IFM’s regulatory board, are permitted to use the post nominal letters ‘IFMCP’, which stands for Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner. However, the post nominal letters ‘IFNCP’ also exist, which stand for Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner. This is an entirely different type of certification with vastly lower standards, and yet the post nominal identification between the two are very similar and easy to confuse given their similarity.

When deciding on who to have on your health care team it is important for you to know the difference between the types of practitioners so you can ensure that your practitioners have the top education, training, and experience. Be sure to ask where your practitioner went to school, what degrees they hold, what advanced certifications they have earned, and how all of that qualifies them to provide you with the very best care possible.