Education of nutrition practitioners varies. Most state laws that regulate the practice of dietetics/nutrition include in the eligibility requirements the successful completion of, at minimum, a Baccalaureate degree. Most voluntary certification boards require a baccalaureate or advanced degree and successful completion of a written exam. Some voluntary certification programs also require candidates to complete a pre-professional practice experience (similar to a residency program) prior to taking board exams. One such example is the Commission on Dietetic Registration which confers the title Registered Dietitian (R.D.) to individuals having successfully completed minimum academic requirements, a preprofessional practice experience, and board examination. Most voluntary certification programs also require their members to accrue continuing professional education credits or retake the certification exam periodically in order to maintain certification or registration status. Other examples of certification titles include Clinical Nutrition Specialist for MDs and doctors of osteopathy, and Human Nutrition Specialist for PhD holders. The Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists confers the title Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) to its candidates who have completed an advanced degree (masters or doctoral level) and passed a certifying exam.
Official Licensing Bodies
Currently, forty-one states have mandated qualifications that regulate the scope and practice of dietetics/nutrition. State laws that regulate the practice of dietetics/nutrition include licensing, statutory certification, and registration. Licensing statutes include an explicitly defined scope of practice, and performance of the profession is illegal without first obtaining a license from the state. Examples of state licensure titles include Licensed Dietitian (L.D.), Licensed Nutritionist (L.N.), or Licensed Medical Nutrition Therapist (LMNT). Statutory certification limits the use of a particular title to persons meeting pre-determined requirements, while persons not certified could still practice that occupation or profession. Examples of state certification titles include Certified Dietitian/Nutritionist (CDN) or Certified Nutrition Counselor (CNC). Registration is the least restrictive of state regulations. As with certification, unregistered persons may be permitted to practice the profession if they do not use the state recognized title. At the time of this writing (May 2000), New York State regulates the certification of dietitians and nutritionists (CDN)- it does not license or register these practitioners. The State Board for Dietetics and Nutrition in Albany can be contacted at (518) 474-3842 to confirm the credentials or status of a practitioner or to file a complaint. Each state has its own regulatory board governing the credentialing of dietitians and nutritionists.
The public should be aware, however, that anyone may use the title nutritionist and practice the profession without having completed any accredited degree program or formalized professional training and development. The title nutritionist refers to the occupation or profession- its not regulated, and thus anyone may practice the profession as long as they do not refer to the state or legally recognized titles. It is the patients right to inquire into a practitioners training, credentialing, practice in their field, and experience with treating a particular condition.
Bengmark S. Immunonutrition: Role of Biosurfactants, Fiber, and Probiotic Bacteria. Nutrition. 14:585-594, 1998.
Bradford, Nikki, Ed. Alternative Healthcare: A Comprehensive Guide to Therapies & Remedies. San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay Press, 1997.
Chandra RK. Nutrition and immunology: from the clinic to cellular biology and back again. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 58(3):681-3, Aug. 1999.
Guengerich PF. Effects of Nutritive Factors on Metabolic Processes Involving Bioactivation and Detoxification of Chemicals. Annual Review of Nutrition. 4:207-31, 1984.
Guthrie, Helen A. Introductory Nutrition. St. Louis, MO: Times Mirror/Mosby College Publishing, 1989.
Hannigan BM. Diet and immune function. British Journal of Biomedical Sciences. 51(3):252-9, Sept. 1994.
Lyons, Dianne JB. Planning Your Career in Alternative Medicine. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group, 1997.
Percival M. Phytonutrients and Detoxification. Clinical Nutrition Insights. 5 (2): 1-4, 1997.
Scrimshaw NS, SanGiovanni JP. Synergism of nutrition, infection, and immunity: an overview. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 66(2):464S-477S, Aug. 1997.
The Burton Goldberg Group. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. Fife, Washington: Future Medicine Publishing, 1994.
Vickers A, Zollman C. ABC of complementary Medicine. Unconventional approaches to nutritional medicine. British Medical Journal. 319:1419-1422, 1999.