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NUTRITIONISTS

Nutritional sciences academic training programs with a strong emphasis in nutritional biochemistry reside in medical colleges (e.g., Columbia University), schools of public health (e.g., Harvard University), and land grant universities (e.g., Cornell University). Nutritional sci- ences training programs can be independent units, jointly administered or affiliated with programs of toxicology, biochemistry, animal sciences, food sciences, and various medical programs. Academic faculty in nutritional bio- chemistry can be expert in many disciplines, including chemistry, biochemistry, genetics, and physiology. Therefore, individual nutritional sciences programs with distinct nutritional biochemistry concentrations are highly unique. Nutritional biochemists establish careers in teaching and research within universities, governmen- tal and regulatory agencies, and the food, pharmaceuti- cal, or biotechnology industries. Nutritional biochemists may also work in fields related to public policy, health care, or product development and marketing in the food industry.

See also Dietary Guidelines; Nutraceuticals; Nutrient Bioavailability; Nutrients.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Allen, Lindsay H., Margaret E. Bentley, Sharon M. Donovan, Denise M. Ney, and Patrick J. Stover. “Securing the Fu- ture of Nutritional Sciences through Integrative Graduate Education.” Journal of Nutrition 132 (2002): 779–784.

Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of

Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid,

Biotin, and Choline. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1998.

Thomas, Paul R., and Robert Earl, eds. Opportunities in the Nu-

trition and Food Sciences. Washington, D.C.: National Acad-

emy Press, 1994.

Patrick J. Stover

NUTRITIONISTS. The field of nutrition is a broad one and has a wide variety of individuals working in it. Self-styled experts abound—based on the premise that they have eaten all of their lives, have grown, and are healthy adults, they regard themselves as nutrition ex- perts. Unfortunately, it is not quite this easy to become a nutritionist. Cooks, chefs, science teachers, and many allied health professionals may have taken a course or two in nutrition during their training, but this does not qual- ify them as nutritionists either. Nutritionists have un- dergone rigorous educational programs in the sciences and have studied nutrients and other components of food in depth.

For the purpose of this discussion, four different types of nutritionists will be described along with the ed- ucational pathways needed to qualify for each position. These include the nutrition scientist, the public health

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nutritionist, the dietitian (known in the United States as the registered dietitian or RD) and the dietetic techni- cian (known as the dietetic technician, registered, or DTR in the United States). Each of these groups devel- ops different skill sets, and each group is responsible for carrying out different functions in the broader field that is nutrition.

Nutrition Scientists

Nutrition scientists are those individuals who use the sci- entific method to study nutrients, both as individual com- pounds and as they interact in food and nutrition. The role of the nutrition scientist is to develop new knowl- edge related to nutrients or nutrition or to develop new processes or techniques to apply existing knowledge. For example, nutrition scientists have been involved in de- veloping food preservation processes, determining nutri- ent requirements for various animal species, describing how individual nutrients function within the cells of the human body, and identifying nutrition-related problems in various populations.

Nutritionist scientists may have their basic training in nutrition or in a related field such as biochemistry, mi- crobiology, cell biology, epidemiology, toxicology, agri- culture, or food science. In most cases, they hold a PhD in their respective field of study. Sometimes, they hold another terminal degree such as an MD or a doctorate in public health (DrPH). Other nutrition scientists do not hold a terminal degree but are trained at the master’s de- gree level and may assist in laboratories or in fieldwork. The characteristic that defines the nutrition scientist is not the field in which the training occurred, but the area in which the person is working. If scientists are con- ducting research with food, nutrients, or the nutritional status of groups, individuals, or animals, it is appropriate for them to be known as nutrition scientists. In the United States, the universities that train individuals to be nutrition scientists are regionally accredited, but the dis- cipline-specific programs are not.

Public Health Nutritionists

Public health nutritionists are professionals who view the community as their client. They specialize in diagnosing the nutritional problems of communities and in finding solutions to those problems. Some classic examples of public health nutrition interventions include the fortifi- cation of salt with iodine to prevent goiter or the en- richment of grain products with B vitamins to prevent deficiency diseases like pellegra or beriberi.

Public health nutritionists are often dietitians who hold a bachelor’s degree in applied nutrition. In addition, they study public health theory and practice at the mas- ter’s degree level, earning a master’s degree in public health (MPH). The curriculum for the MPH includes coursework in epidemiology, advocacy, public policy, program management, grant writing, and social market- ing. Programs in public health nutrition may accept stu-

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