As more Americans begin to seek nutrition advise and search for ways to live healthier lives, the popularity of nutrition counseling has significantly increased. As a result, there are many individuals offering nutrition advise that are not educated in nutrition science and are not qualified to be practicing as a nutritionist. Many accredited universities offer nutrition courses based on scientific principles and taught by qualified instructors. A bachelor’s degree in nutrition requires four years of full-time study that qualify a graduate for entry level positions in dietetics or food service. A master’s degree, which can widen career opportunities, requires two more years of full-time study beyond the undergraduate level. People who wish to become nutrition researchers usually pursue a doctorate (Ph.D.).
As someone who has dedicated his life to the science of nutrition and has realized its benefits in health care and disease prevention, it is extremely important to me that people are not misled by individuals who are unqualified to give nutrition advice. For this reason I have compiled a simple set of guidelines to follow when choosing a nutrition professional. Remember, it should never be embarrassing to ask your nutritionist/dietician about his or her education and credentials. It could mean the difference between getting accurate advice to help solve a heath issue, or being deceived into spending money on an inappropriate or unproven nutrition therapy.
These individuals have not completed graduate level coursework in nutrition science from an accredited college or university and are not eligible for state licensure and/or board certification.
Certified Nutritionist, C.N. – This credential is not recognized as legitimate in the field of nutrition. Certified Nutritionists do not qualify for licensure or board certification, and have not completed a four year bachelors degree or graduate level coursework in nutrition. Individuals with this designation paid for a six module “home study” course from an internet company known as the American Health Science University. This business is no longer in operation due to a bankruptcy filing. The Certified Nutritionist has NOT completed rigorous coursework in the nutritional sciences from an accredited college or university. The CN credential should be regarded as bogus.
Certified Nutritional Consultant, C.N.C – The American Association of Nutritional Consultants issues a Certified Nutritional Consultant (CNC) credential to persons who take an open-book test. The CNC credential should be regarded as bogus.
Traditional Naturopathic Practitioner, T.N.P. or a Certified Traditional Naturopath, CTN – A traditional or classic naturopath does not practice medicine, diagnose or treat disease but rather concentrates on prevention and education. Their education consists of distance learning or online courses. These individuals can be very knowledgable about nutrition and can offer some good advice, but they have not graduated from an accredited college or university and have not completed graduate level course work in the nutritional sciences. Traditional naturopaths cannot attain state licensure or board certification.
These professionals may have completed graduate level coursework in nutrition science from an accredited college or university and may be eligible for state licensure and/or board certification.
Physician Assistant, P.A., Family Nurse Practitioner, F.N.P. – These professionals are highly skilled health care providers with undergraduate and graduate degrees from accredited colleges or universities. Some practitioners have completed advanced coursework in nutrition science and specialize in medical nutrition.
These professionals have completed graduate level coursework in nutrition science from an accredited college or university and are eligible for state licensure and/or board certification.
Masters (M.S.), Doctorate (Ph.D.) in nutrition science – These highly skilled professionals have a four year undergraduate degree from an accredited university with two or four years of graduate studies in nutrition science. Most graduate level nutritionists will attain state licensure and/or board certification. The following credentials indicate that the nutritionist is board certified and has received advanced training: C.C.N. (Certified Clinical Nutritionist), C.N.S. (Certified Nutrition Specialist), R.D./L.D (Registered Dietician/Licensed Dietician).
Naturopathic Doctor, N.D. – A licensed naturopathic doctor must attend an accredited 4-year naturopathic medical school and pass the comprehensive NPLEX board exams. There are only five accredited schools in the U.S. (NCNM in Portland, SCNM in Tempe, Bastyr Univ. in Seattle, Univ. of Bridgeport in Bridgeport, and NUHS in Chicago). They are considered complementary and alternative health care practitioners and are often primary care physicians. Naturopathic doctors are highly qualified to practice nutrition and can offer exceptional guidance. Remember to make sure that your doctor is LICENSED to practice medicine!!
Medical Doctor, M.D., Osteopathic Doctor, D.O. – Many doctors are choosing to integrate nutritional medicine in their practices. Even though doctors receive very little nutrition course work in medical school, they are exceptionally trained in the sciences. Doctors that have taken an interest in nutrition often pursue continuing education programs that help them become highly skilled nutritionists.
Chiropractic Doctor, D.C. – Chiropractors receive considerably more nutrition coursework than medical doctors. Many chiropractors choose to specialize in nutrition counseling by pursuing a master’s degree in nutrition science.
Registered Dietician, R.D. – An RD is a highly qualified food and dietary professional, usually with a 4-year bachelor’s degree and 900 hours in a dietetic internship through an accredited program and passing a registration/licensing exam. Dietitians often work in health institutions as clinical dietitians, management dietitians, but can also work as community or consultant dietitians.