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Nutritionist or Dietitian: Which career is for me?

12 Sep 2013

Imagine yourself playing a part in improving people’s lives and assisting in a person’s journey to reaching optimal health through food and nutrition. Imagine yourself in a career that enables you to educate people on healthy eating or to assist someone to better manage his or her disease and prevent the disease from getting worse through eating well.  If this is what you have always dreamt of, consider a career as a nutritionist or a dietitian. Nutrition science examines the ways in which what we eat affects our physical and even our psychological well-being. Dietetics is the practical application of nutrition in health and disease. Hence, nutritionists and dietitians share common roles in promoting health through good nutrition. Nutritionists play a role in disease prevention and health promotion with emphasis on balanced diets and healthy lifestyles at various stages of the life cycle.  Nutritionists are employed by government agencies in managing programmes, setting policies and regulatory guidelines, undertaking nutrition education, and monitoring the nutritional status of the population.  They also play an active role in health promotion efforts in preschools, schools, and work places.  Nutritionists are engaged by the food and nutrition products industry, wellness and fitness businesses, where they take on advisory roles and provide training to groups or individuals.  For those with an interest in writing, both the online and print mass media do employ nutritionists for scientific communication to consumers and the general public.  As for those with an interest in research, universities, research institutes and the industry in Malaysia and abroad engage nutritionists in a vast array of research experiments and surveys. Dietitian with Patient with Feeding Tube Dietitians play a diverse role in the overall nutrition care of individuals and groups, with focus on clinical nutrition i.e. nutrition care of people with diseases. They normally work in clinical and non-clinical settings including hospitals, health clinics and wellness centres.  Their roles are also expanding into pharmacies, insurance companies and other healthcare industry. Dietitians prescribe individual nutrient requirements, design meal plans as well as provide dietary counselling to facilitate individuals to make dietary changes to prevent and manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure or obesity.  In some settings such as hospitals, private schools and homes, dietitians are responsible for the feeding of individuals and manage the food services provided by these places. With sufficient years of experience and further certification, they can specialise in dietetic areas related to  diabetes, cancer, renal diseases, paediatrics,  critical illness and others. Dietitians can also work with food and nutrition related companies to provide nutrition education and communication to consumers and healthcare professionals on disease-specific products. In order to become a qualified nutritionist or dietitian, you must undergo an education/ training which will equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills. The International Medical University (IMU), Malaysia’s first and most established private medical and healthcare university founded 21 years ago, offers undergraduate degrees in Nutrition and Dietetics with Nutrition.  

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