Clinical nutrition is the practice of analyzing whether a person is consuming an adequate amount of nutrients for good health. A clinical nutritionist is concerned about how the body processes, stores, and discards nutrients from food, along with how what you eat affects your overall well-being. Professionals in this field assess your nutritional needs based on your medical and family history, lifestyle, and laboratory tests to make recommendations about your diet and your individual nutritional needs. A clinical nutritionist can advise you on dietary changes that can help prevent diseases.
The primary function of a clinical dietitian is to design nutrition programs to improve or maintain patients' health. These programs may be short-term, for example, to ensure that adequate nutrition is given to the victim of an accident until complete healing has occurred. Or they may be long-term for patients with diabetes, kidney disease, or diseases of old age that affect proper nutrition. Programs designed can be preventive, for heart disease or obesity, or therapeutic to help a patient with heart disease maintain a baseline health and nutrition status.
When it comes to the differences in education between the two professions, nutrition specialists tend to achieve lower levels of education than clinical dietitians. In addition, they must complete a 56-hour online clinical nutrition training program offered through the board. Clinical dietitians in hospitals, long-term care facilities, inpatient and outpatient clinics, and private practices often work with people suffering from eating disorders, substance abuse, or medical conditions with symptoms that can be improved or controlled with diet or meal planning more specific. Clinical dietitians often coordinate with other medical professionals to evaluate food choices and develop nutrition programs for patients.
A full-time student pursuing a master's degree in clinical nutrition can generally complete a program in 18 months. Part-time students pursuing a master's degree in clinical nutrition generally graduate in three to five years. For example, because nutritionists do not necessarily have a certification, license, or clinical experience, they may not be allowed to provide specific nutritional advice or diagnose and treat medical conditions. You can also open your own clinic and provide nutrition advice and analysis to patients of any age and health status.
Many people complete a degree in clinical nutrition, dietetics, or public health nutrition that includes a DPD. A similarity between the two careers of clinical dietitians and nutritionists are some of the skills associated with both roles. There are states that require nutritionists to have a license before they can provide nutritional advice, and others require a professional to be a DR to legally provide nutritional advice. Meanwhile, certified clinical nutrition specialists and dietitians earn degrees, conduct internships, and obtain licenses that ensure they have the necessary training to make use of the most credible, evidence-based research.