Opportunities in Nutrition and Dietetics
What is Nutrition?
Nutrition is the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.
It is also the supply of materials (food) required by organisms and cells to stay alive. In science and human medicine, nutrition is the science or practice of consuming and utilizing foods.
In hospitals, nutrition may refer to the food requirements of patients, including nutritional solutions delivered via an IV (intravenous) or IG (intragastric) tube.
Nutritional science studies how the body breaks food down (catabolism) and how it repairs and creates cells and tissue (anabolism). Catabolism and anabolism combined can also be referred to as metabolism. Nutritional science examines how the body responds to food.
As molecular biology, biochemistry, and genetics have advanced, nutrition has become more focused on metabolism and metabolic pathways – biochemical steps through which substances inside us are transformed from one form to another.
Nutrition also focuses on how diseases, conditions, and problems can be prevented or reduced with a healthy diet.
Similarly, nutrition involves identifying how certain diseases and conditions may be caused by dietary factors, such as poor diet (malnutrition), food allergies, and food intolerances.
A nutrient is a source of nourishment, a component of food, for instance, protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamin, mineral, fiber, and water.
• Macronutrients are nutrients we need in relatively large quantities.
• Micronutrients are nutrients we need in relatively small quantities.
Macronutrients can be further split into energy macronutrients (that provide energy), and macronutrients that do not provide energy.
1. Energy macronutrients
Energy macronutrients provide energy, which is measured either in kilocalories (kcal or calories) or Joules. 1 kilocalorie (calorie) = 4185.8 joules. Energy macronutrients include:
Carbohydrate molecules include monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, and galactose), disaccharides, and polysaccharides (starch).
Nutritionally, polysaccharides are favored over monosaccharides because they are more complex and therefore take longer to break down and be absorbed into the bloodstream; this means that they do not cause major spikes in blood sugar levels, which are linked to heart and vascular diseases.
There are 20 amino acids – organic compounds found in nature that combine to form proteins. Some amino acids are essential, meaning they need to be consumed. Other amino acids are non-essential because the body can make them.
Fats are triglycerides – three molecules of fatty acid combined with a molecule of the alcohol glycerol. Fatty acids are simple compounds (monomers) while triglycerides are complex molecules (polymers).
Fats are required in the diet for health as they serve many functions, including lubricating joints, helping organs produce hormones, assisting in the absorption of certain vitamins, reducing inflammation, and preserving brain health.
Nutrition as a Career
There is a lot of overlap between what nutritionists and dieticians do and study. Some nutritionists work in a healthcare setting, some dieticians work in the food industry, but a higher percentage of nutritionists work in the food industry and in food science and technology, and a higher percentage of dieticians work in healthcare, corporate wellness, research, and education.
1. Nutritionists sometimes carry out research for food manufacturers.
2. Nutrition is the study of nutrients in food, how the body uses nutrients, and the relationship between diet, health, and disease.
3. Major food manufacturers employ nutritionists and food scientists.
4. Nutritionists may also work in journalism, education, and research. Many nutritionists work in the field of food science and technology.
What is Dietetics?
The branch of knowledge concerned with the diet and its effects on health, especially with the practical application of a scientific understanding of nutrition.
An academic program that prepares students to use advanced knowledge about food and nutrition to help prevent and treat disease, maintain and promote health. It is:
• People-oriented and science-focused
• The first step toward a professional credential
What is a Registered Dietician?
Registered Dietician (RD) is a professional credential used by individuals who have completed the following steps:
1. Successful completion of a didactic program in dietetics and earning a bachelor of science degree
2. Completion of an accredited dietetic internship
3. Passing the national registration examination for dieticians
Dietetics is the interpretation and communication of the science of nutrition; it helps people make informed and practical choices about food and lifestyle in both health and disease.
Part of a dietician’s course includes both hospital and community settings. Dieticians work in a variety of areas, from private practice to healthcare; education, corporate wellness, and research, while a much smaller proportion work in the food industry.
A dietician must have a recognized degree or postgraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics and meet continuing education requirements to work as a dietician.
Career Opportunities as a Registered Dietician
Perhaps the maximum number of dietitians work in a clinical setting — such as in a hospital or extended care facility. Many also work in a community health setting, such as at a health department, often in programs for at-risk populations, such as WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), Head Start, or programs for seniors. Some dieticians’ responsibilities are concentrated in the food service operations where dietary modifications may be necessary. Here are some areas of focus:
• Clinical nutrition practice
• Public health nutrition
• Corporate wellness/health promotion
• Higher education
• Food industry
• Foodservice management
• Private practice/nutritional counseling
Diet plays a major role in the promotion of health and well being of the individual. A good and balanced diet habit improves the quality of life while poor diet may lead to morbidity and diseases. Nutritionists and dietetics are concerned with this aspect. While Dietetics is related to food management, Nutrition is related to the promotion of health. Due to changes in food habits of most of the urban population, the role of nutritionists and dieticians is becoming more important. They suggest corrective food habits considering various aspects of an individual such as age, work routine and sickness etc. and thereby improving their quality of life. They also educate their clients about the preparation of food according to the principles of nutrition.
Dietician versus Nutritionist
A registered dietician nutritionist (RD or RDN) studies food, nutrition, and dietetics through an accredited university and approved curriculum, then complete a rigorous internship and passes a licensure exam to become a registered dietician.
A nutritionist (without the title of an RD or RDN) studies nutrition via self-study or through formal education but does not meet the requirements to use the titles RD or RDN. The two terms are often interchangeable, but they are not identical.
The minimum requirement for a career in Dietetics and Nutrition is a graduate/post-graduate degree in Home Science/Dietetics and Nutrition/Food Science/Technology. Candidates desiring to seek admission into Bachelor courses in all these subjects should have passed 10+2 with science subjects. Some colleges/universities also offer B.A. courses in Home Science for which science at 10+2 is not necessary. These Bachelor courses are of three-year duration.
For post-graduate courses in Home Science/Dietetics and Nutrition/Food Technology, graduation in these subjects is the must. The post-graduate level courses are of two-year duration. Besides, there is one year Post Graduate Diploma in Dietetics and Public Health Nutrition (DDPHN). After doing the Post-graduation programme, one can also go in for PhD and do Research in Food and Nutrition.
Nutritionists and dieticians have multiple career options. They can work with government hospitals, government’s health department, school, colleges, factories and office cafeterias for planning nutritional regiment. They also can be hired for sports hostels and athletes camps. Health and recreation clubs, canteen and nursing care facilities also require the services of Nutritionists and dieticians. Employment opportunities are also open to them in the catering department of star hotels and restaurants and research labs of food manufacturers.
Moreover, they could find openings in the mass media where top priority is given to disseminating vital information on healthy living. They also can opt for research career mainly in universities, public or private sector research institutes, food product manufacturing companies and hospitals. Teaching the science of nutrition of dietetics in colleges and universities is also a good option available to Nutritionists and dieticians. Besides all these, they can also work as a private consultant or private practitioner.
Top Colleges Offering UG/PG/Other Courses:
There are several universities in India those offer B.Sc/M.Sc courses in Nutrition and Dietetics. Some of them are University of Madras, Chennai; Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai; University of Mumbai, Mumbai; Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam; Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore; Maharaja Syajiro University of Baroda, Vadodara; Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology, Udaipur; Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad; Allahabad Agricultural Institute, Allahabad; Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore; Indira Gandhi National Open University ,New Delhi; Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad; Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra; Lady Irwin College, New Delhi; Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai; National Institute of Nutrition ( NTR University of Health Science), Hyderabad and Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana
Dietetics and Nutrition is a remunerative job. Those who are working in government hospitals, academic institutions, research institutes, and other agencies have salaries as fixed by the government which is between Rs 20,000 to Rs. 35,000 per month depending upon work profile and experience. Private sector hotels, restaurants, food manufacturers offer higher salary and attractive perks. Independent Practitioner and Private Consultants also have good earning which largely depends upon the number and nature of their clients.