In the UK, as with many countries, the term “nutritionist” is not legally protected. Unlike dietitians, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist without repercussions. Someone could call themselves a nutritionist after doing just a short course. Chances are, these courses leave them without sufficient scientific understanding or critical evaluation skills to keep you safe. As nutritionists do play a key role in research, public policy, industry and clinical sectors, there is a voluntary register in place. Here, nutritionists can be registered as ANutr and RNutr to indicate their qualification level. But what do these letters actually mean?
With the posting of my Master’s results last month, I became eligible to use the letters ANutr after my name. ANutr stands for Associate Registered Nutritionist. It recognises that a person has completed sufficient study from an accredited degree (or non-accredited, plus several years working experience), but is still junior in terms of working experience. Associated Registered Nutritionists are able work in sectors including food industry, research, public policy and in clinical settings. When working with clients, an ANutr is expected to have a mentor, and should stay within ther scope of practice. Additionally, the AfN -the governing body for Registered Nutritionists -monitors their members describing themselves as an “expert” of a subject, and this may well be prohibited without sufficient evidence to demonstrate that specialism.
In essence, ANutrs have certain limitations on the services they can offer in order to protect themselves, and their clients.
A fully Registered Nutritionist, RNutr, is someone who has gained extra working experience and further training, on top of the ANutr requirements. This additional experience is usually equivalent to at least three years of full time work, plus evidence of additional study. This study can be courses, webinars, events or even writing analyses of research papers.
Although many Registered Nutritionists choose to have a mentor, regular supervision is not required. A RNutr will likely be considered more experienced if applying for higher job roles. They can also work 1:1 with clients who have more complex needs. RNutrs may also choose to specialise in a particular area. To keep their RNutr status, nutritionists must keep a record of a minimum of 30 hours per year further study. This continual investment of time and money into training helps to ensure nutritionists stay on top of the latest research, and improve their skills, whether in clinical and communication settings, or to explore an additional branch of nutritional science.
When looking for a nutritional professional to work with, look to see their education and training record, alongside their registration with the AfN (or BDA for dieticians) to see if they are sufficiently qualified to meet your needs.