Sunday January 16, 2022

Wrong dietitian, nutritionist can endanger your health: experts

March 01, 2021

Islamabad: Finding the right diet expert can be frustrating as there are no regulatory authorities in Pakistan to check on a dietitian’s work and qualification. Currently, anyone who has been through an observership, internship, certificate, or diploma in nutrition can set up a business and start giving dietary advice, which can be damaging for health.

Consultant nutritionist and head of the Clinical Nutrition Department at Shifa International Hospital Dr. Rezzan Khan issued the above warning for public awareness in a statement issued here in connection with the annual observation of March as the Nutrition Month—a nutrition education and information campaign aimed to increase the public’s awareness of good nutrition practices.

Dr. Rezzan said, these so-called nutritionists typically lack the expertise and training for medical nutrition therapy and nutrition counseling. “Giving nutrition advice without proper knowledge and training can be harmful, especially when counseling those with health conditions. Before consulting a nutritionist, you may want to check the qualification of the dietitian’s education and experience,” she stated.

Ideally, a dietician should have a minimum four-your bachelor’s degree in Food and Nutrition and at least two years of clinical experience as a dietitian from a tertiary care hospital. The only exception to this are nutritionists and dietitians working in hospitals, who comply with the educational and experience standard required of them to provide medical grade intervention, therapy and advice.

“These professionals can reliable conduct nutritional assessments on patients and prescribe dietary changes to help treat or prevent chronic and acute illnesses,” Dr. Rezzan informed.

Dr. Rezzan pointed out that over the past decade, various personal and societal concerns—including a desire for optimum health and fitness, uncertainty about the safety and adequacy of the modern diet, and a justifiable distrust of the nutritional competence of most physicians—have cemented the importance of nutrition in popular culture, and created a large market for advice on food and dietary habits.

“This has attracted a number of ‘unqualified nutritionists’ to open up shop and deceive the public with gimmicks and quackery,” she added.

The nutritionist urged the public to seek out well-trained and properly credentialled nutritionists for personalized counseling. “Indeed, even doctors recognize the importance of nutritional choices and provide their patents with printed sheet of dietary advice; however, these tend to be one-size-fits-all suggestions that are hard to implement in many cases. Unlike most physicians, nutritionists can provide detailed assistance based on your specific situation; they can advise you on how to shop for wholesome foods, read food labels, prepare fast and healthful meals, eat well while traveling, cope with different food needs in the family, and motivate yourself to start and stick with an exercise programme,” she said.

A dietitian nutritionist can help manage diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases, improve a person’s well-being and an understanding of their condition and how the foods they choose can affect it.

Dietitians translate the latest scientific information into practical advice about what to eat to promote nutritional well-being and treat medical conditions through medical nutrition therapy. They works to create an eating plan that helps consume the nutrients needed to manage one’s condition. They can also help to diagnose eating disorders and recommend ways to overcome them.