Just What Do All Those Letters and Certifications Mean, Anyway?

I’ve spent a lot of time, money and energy to earn the certifications that I have (USAT Level One Certified Triathlon Coach, Total Immersion Level Two Certified Coach).  While certifications do not make you an “expert”, education and experience certainly do.  I see lots of people promoting themselves as certified experts in various and sundry fields that are hot topics these days, not the least of which is nutrition.

Since I can only speak to nutrition from the standpoint of what has worked for me, I thought it best for me to ask an expert.  I’d like to thank one of my athletes, Club members and friends for agreeing to be a guest blogger, and I’d like to introduce you to Aimee Crant-Oksa, MS, RDN and the Clinical Nutrition Manager at Centrastate Medical Center.

In an effort to help us all get the best advice and guidance we can, I thought I’d ask Aimee to explain just what “nutrition” is all about.

* * * * * * *

“Would you go to an non-credentialed doctor or nurse for medical advice or care?  Why would you do that for nutrition . . .  isn’t what you put into your body important? Think about that the next time you see the word nutritionist . . . where were they trained or what is their background/knowledge base?

There are three distinct nutrition credentials that require scientific training, an internship and college degrees, either bachelor’s (BS) or master’s (MS).

1.  Individuals with the RD or RDN (Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) credential have fulfilled specific requirements, including having earned at least a bachelor’s degree (BS), (about half of RDs hold advanced degrees – MS or PhD), completed a supervised practice program of 900-1200 hours and passed a registration examination — in addition to maintaining continuing education requirements for recertification.

2.  The CNS (certified nutrition specialist) credential involves passing an exam, completing a 1,000 hour internship and obtaining an advanced nutrition degree – MS or higher.

3.  The CCN (certified clinical nutritionist) must obtain a 4 year degree, complete a 900 hour internship, have 50 hours post-graduate study in clinical nutrition, and pass an exam.

There are many less intensive paths ranging from the CNC (certified nutrition consultant) which requires completing only one course and the certified nutritionist (CN) credential which requires a six week course program.

RD/RDN’s learn to translate the science of nutrition into practical tips for your every day healthy living. Registered dietitians draw on their experience to develop a personalized nutrition plan for individuals of all ages. They are able to separate facts from fads and translate nutritional science into information you can use. A registered dietitian can put you on the path to a healthy weight, eating healthfully and reduce your risk of chronic disease.

Some RDNs may call themselves “nutritionists,” but not all nutritionists are registered dietitian nutritionists.  The “RDN” credential is a legally protected title that can only be used by practitioners who are authorized by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  The definition and requirements for the term “nutritionist” vary. Some states have licensure laws that define the range of practice for someone using the designation “nutritionist,” but in other states, virtually anyone can call him- or herself a “nutritionist” regardless of education or training.

So remember the next time you see the term “nutritionist”, don’t forget to ask just what their credentials are.”

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