I’ve been a little obsessed with travel and other pursuits, but from time to time, I’m going to revisit why I started this blog – overall health, and Dr. Oz. This was written months ago, but I couldn’t figure out when to post it. Now seemed like as good a time as any before I start a slew of travel related posts.
Dr. Oz provides his viewers with a lot of advice on nutrition. I have tested some of his advice from time to time, but have found a number of places where there are inconsistencies. One day, he’ll recommend something as a super food and the next day, he’s moved on to something else. There are a couple of times where I’ve just disagreed with him – like recommending coconut oil where there is no scientific evidence that it has any health benefits. In fact, there are more studies that suggest it’s high levels of saturated fat can actually do you more harm than good. Before I try any more of his recommendations, I thought I’d speak to a trained dietician – and why not go to one that I know, trust and love – my cousin Gail! You may remember her from previous blogs since I’ve turned to her before. We sat down over Italian so that I could get answers to my latest barrage of questions.
First off, I’ve noticed a lot of people giving advice on nutrition. Can you tell me what the difference is between a dietician and a nutritionist?
Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, even you. It’s not a protected title. Dietitians have a license protected title. In order to be a dietician, you need to have a degree and have completed an internship of one year including clinical, foodservice and community work. We have to write a test (usually 6 hours) based on the standards of the province that we are practicing in. Dietitians have to upkeep our knowledge and belong to the College of Dietitians which is there for the public’s protection. We, as dietitians, have to stay on top of studies and understand the most up to date information in our field and it must be practice specific.
A nutritionist is someone that can, for example, read a food label, but they do not understand the science behind it. In the USA, dietitians are called nutritionists so that’s also where some of the confusion lies.
So, I can be a nutritionist in Canada?
When should you reach out to either?
A nutritionist is cheaper for a reason. It’s like going to a holistic doctor versus a medical doctor. The content of education is different. A registered dietician bases opinion on scientific data driven by studies. They are not trying to sell anything like supplements or cleanses. A nutritionist isn’t covered by medical plans. A dietitian can be covered by OHIP (or other provincial equivalents) for specific conditions or consultations but if you are consulting them privately, it can be expensive.
You can consult a dietitian when you want to make lifestyle adjustments with diet, and this isn’t just for weight loss. Weight loss may be a by product of the plan, but medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, IBS, Crohn’s or any psychiatric conditions (eating disorders) can benefit from a dietitian.
Is there a danger or risk to seeing a nutritionist?
Yes, particularly if they are recommending fad diets, selling products, creating fear of certain foods or touting elimination diets that have no scientific validity. They can sometimes offer poor advice that could cause long term problems. Dietitians often have to deal with issues caused by unsound advice from people calling themselves nutritionists.
What are the ethical standards for a dietician?
There is a huge list of ethical standards. In Ontario, we are governed by the College of Dietitians of Ontario. We are covered under the Health Care Professionals Act (the same act that covers psychologists).
What is the worst piece of advice that you’ve seen a nutritionist provide?
Telling people to go on elimination diets is a huge issue. There are no tested studies and there is no validity to them. Once you end up eliminating foods that you may not be allergic too, people often get confused and no longer know what to eat.
So what do you think about Dr. Oz? I know, we’ve talked about this before…
Don’t watch Dr. Oz! He has a certain pressure to sell his show and it shows in his advice!
For more valuable advice, including Gail’s healthy take on body image, check out her blog on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/gailkardishRD/