This post is meant to be a brief but clear explanation that I can refer back to for other written articles or people that ask what makes me or any other Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) a “Nutrition Expert”. This also clarifies the difference in titles: Nutritionist, Nutrition Therapy Professional, Nutrition Certification, Nutrition Specialist, etc.
- I studied Nutritional Science for 4 years at a top university (Pepperdine University), in-person. I didn’t take a weekend course, or a 6 month online study in New York. I studied the biology, chemistry, art and physiological responses to food for 4 entire years. And even with that said, there is no way I learned everything there is to know, because nutrition science is young and we discover new ideas and principles every single day. Which is why I have to continue to take at least 15 hours of continuing education every year as a requirement to maintain my credentials. (75 hours per 5 year period).
- As a 21 year-old undergraduate, I created and executed my own research study on genetically modified infant and toddler foods. I was torn on where I stood on this topic, so I needed more information. I spent an entire summer in a lab with pipettes and a spectrophotometer extracting DNA from cheerios, baby food, puffs and crackers and testing that DNA for genetic modification. That research is still being worked on today by other students at Pepperdine. My opinion on GMO’s after that and currently is: anti-GMO.
- After those 4 years, I had to apply and compete against my classmates and fellow students all over the country to be accepted into a dietetic internship (think medical residency for food). These programs accept anywhere from 3-18 students per year. I was chosen and matched by another top university hospital and medical center (Vanderbilt Medical Center & Children’s Hospital), and spent the next 10 months studying more nutrition, going on rounds with doctors, nurses, dietitians and medical students where I was grilled on nutritional treatment interventions for burn victims, ICU patients, Type 1 & 2 diabetics, children with genetic diseases and any other medical situation you can think of. I made life and death nutritional decisions (you think I’m exaggerating but what do you think happens if I calculate a NICU babies feeding wrong?) under the supervision of the best of the best.
- After passing and completing my dietetic internship I had to sit for and pass a 3 hour RD Examination in order to get the “RD” registered dietitian, now referred to as “RDN” registered dietitian nutritionist, credential. We are required to maintain this credential with those 75 CEU’s each 5 year period.
- In my line of work, I interact and work with MD’s, ND’s, NP’s, RN’s, PA’s, etc every day on patient care. And you know what? I am the one that makes the final decision on anything nutrition related. I change meal plans or supplements or suggest alternative methods before medication intervention. I am respected among my peers and although many of them were in school for many more years than myself, I still have the most years in studying one thing: nutrition. Any medical student or MD will tell you that their nutrition course was short and mainly covered nutritional deficiencies.
All this is to say, that yes, I am a nutrition expert. At this point in time, I’ve spent the last 12 years studying and applying food and nutrition science. So my opinion, along with anyone else that carries that “RD or RDN” credential, counts when we are talking about nutrition.