diet and nutrition

What is a Dietitian?

What is a Dietitian?

Dietitians are qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. They translate the most up-to-date scientific research on food, health and disease into practical advice that people can use to change their everyday lifestyle and dietary habits to improve their health. Dietitians are experts in food and nutrition and can use their knowledge to help prevent and treat various health conditions including cancer.

Dietitians can work in a wide variety of areas including hospitals, community health sectors, as health educators in public health, in the NHS or private practice, food service and industry, sport, education, media or research.

Registered Dietitians are qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level
— British Dietetic Association

Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be regulated by law, and are governed by an ethical code to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. All Registered Dietitians are registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) which is an independent, UK-wide health regulator that sets standards of professional training, performance and conduct for 14 professions including dietitians. They ensure dietitians stay up to date through continuing professional development and ensure we meet the highest standards to protect the public.

Dietitians are statutorily regulated, with a protected title and governed by an ethical code to ensure that they always work to the highest standard.
— British Dietetic Association

What is a Nutritionist?

Nutritionists are qualified to provide information about food and healthy eating, but not about special diets for medical conditions. Nutritionists are not required to be registered in order to work in the UK. Their title is not protected by law so anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Therefore, it is advisable to check they are registered with the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN) run by the Association for Nutrition. However, it is not a legal requirement for a nutritionist to be registered with the UKVRN.

What is a Nutritional Therapist?

Nutritional therapists encompass the use of recommendations for diet and lifestyle in order to alleviate or prevent ailments, often based on complementary ‘medicine’ recommendations not recognised as valid treatment in conventional medicine. Nutritional therapists use treatments such as high dose vitamins, detox, and food avoidance for which there is little robust scientific evidence. They are not independently regulated and there title is not protected by law so anyone can call themselves a nutritional therapist or diet expert.

Who should I choose to provide me with reliable dietary advice?

Choosing the right person to seek help and advice from can sometimes be a confusing task. Many people claim to be experts in nutrition yet have very limited knowledge and offer no protection to the public. This leaflet from the British Dietetic Association is very useful as it explains the differences between dietitians, nutritionists and nutritional therapists so you can choose an appropriate person to provide you with reliable dietary advice.

https://www.bda.uk.com/publications/dietitian_nutritionist.pdf

Lifestyle and cancer risk - Is there really a link?

We see information in the media nearly every day telling us about what we should be eating to stay healthy and recommending the next ‘superfood’ that will prevent us from getting cancer. But how much truth is behind these claims? What is a healthy diet and can it really reduce our risk of getting cancer?

Firstly, let’s look at what the risk factors for cancer are. Cancer is caused by damage to the DNA or genetic make up of our cells. Cells are the building blocks of our body which are controlled by this DNA. If it is damaged, the cells can start to multiply uncontrollably to produce a cluster of cells which is often called a tumour. This tumour is not always cancerous, but if it is, it can grow bigger and invade surrounding healthy organs and tissues and can spread to other parts of the body also. We don’t know exactly what causes many cancers but there are certain things that can increase your cancer risk.

  • Inherited genes - Research shows that these genes only cause about 5-10% of cancers and scientists have linked genes to certain cancers such as bowel and breast cancer.

  • Infectious diseases – some infectious diseases can increase the risk of cancer such as Helicobacter pylori bacteria which can increase the risk of stomach cancer, HPV (human papilloma virus) which is linked to cervical cancer and Hepatitis B and C which is linked to liver cancer.

  • Occupational and environmental factors – Certain harmful substances found in the workplace or environment have been found to cause cancer including asbestos which is a natural mineral that can cause damage to the lungs which is now banned in the UK. The main environmental factor that can cause cancer is exposure to the sun or ultraviolet light (UV) which is linked to skin cancer.

  • Lifestyle factors – Smoking alone is responsible for 90% of lung cancers so avoiding smoking or quitting it is the most important action you can take to reduce your risk of cancer. After that, ABOUT ONE THIRD of the most common cancers in the UK could be prevented by EATING A HEALTHY DIET, being PHYSICALLY ACTIVE and maintaining a HEALTHY WEIGHT. That is about 80,000 cases in the UK every year so yes there is definitely a link between your lifestyle and risk of developing cancer! 

Over the next few blogs, I am going to explain how diet, physical activity and weight can either reduce or increase your cancer risk based on the most up to date scientific research currently available. Stay tuned!