|Nutritional counseling to the rescue
|By Cliff Bowden
If the saying, "We are what we eat" is true, then
Americans who eat a lot of junk food are in trouble. The national
obesity epidemic lends credence to this idea.
So, to fight back, we look for weight-loss solutions,
such as following fad diets. But these diets come and go, making
it clear that not every diet works for everybody, or for very long.
According to nutritional counselors, such diets are
not the best idea. But don't get fed up, they say. What most folks
need isn't a diet, but advice from a competent dietitian.
Personal food trainers
Nutritional counselors exist in many shapes and sizes.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics
shows most dietitians and nutritionists are employed by physicians,
hospitals, nursing-care facilities, food-service systems for institutions,
such as schools and hospitals, or wellness programs.
A lot of them, though, have independent practices
where families and individuals can get personal guidance and support
on the road to overcoming bad eating habits.
What? People are hiring nutrition counselors? The
idea is that a modest upfront investment for nutritional guidance
might save a lot of money otherwise spent on medical bills later
The payoff for consulting a qualified nutritionist
can be significant. According to the National Institutes of Health,
the first and best attack on obesity, high cholesterol, cardiovascular
disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and other increasingly common
disorders is a "therapeutic lifestyle change" -- the art of paying
more attention to diet and exercise.
In addition, nutritionists claim that they significant
success rates in treating eating disorders, allergies, kidney problems
and numerous medical conditions, such as Crohn's disease or even
Plenty of options to chew on
Consumers need to do a little research before choosing a nutritional
counselor. Some practitioners specialize in weight loss, others
in disease amelioration or prevention. Some are allied with traditional
Western medicine, some with alternative traditions. And, because
the industry is still unregulated in many states, a fair number
of them may be quacks.
According to U.S. Labor Department figures, only 31
states require dietitians to acquire licenses, and only 14 states
Checking a nutritionist's credentials
is important -- that string of letters after someone's name may
An R.D., or registered dietitian, has been accredited
by the American Dietetic Association; an L.D., or licensed dietician,
indicates a state license. Naturopaths, licensed by the American
Association of Naturopathic Physicians, have "N.D." or
"N.M.D.," doctor of naturopathic medicine, after their
names. Those specializing in nutrition are usually called clinical
Both the ADA
and the AANP
provide lists of what they consider qualified practitioners.
Credentials, however, won't tell the whole story,
says Dr. Stephen Barrett, founder of Quackwatch.com,
which reports on fraudulent practices in a number of medical fields.
"It might be advisable to get a referral from a trusted
source," he says, "such as your own doctor or a local hospital."
One sure sign of quackery, he warns, is the promotion of a particular wonder supplement or product line.