Advertisement

Dietitian, Dietician, or Nutritionist?

Published:February 23, 2015DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2014.12.024
      The terms dietitian vs nutritionist and the correct spelling of dietitian have been ever-evolving issues for our profession. To trace back the origins of these issues we would need to start before the founding of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) in 1917. The word dietetics was included in the 1839 Dunglison Medical Lexicon and defined as “a branch of medicine comprising the rules to be followed for preventing, relieving, or curing disease by diet.”
      • Cassell J.A.
      Carry the Flame: The History of the American Dietetic Association.
      In the 1870s, cooking schools started to be developed, laying the ground work for the dietetics profession in the United States. Graduates of these cooking schools were often called “dietists.”
      • Cassell J.A.
      Carry the Flame: The History of the American Dietetic Association.
      Moving forward to 1899, the word dietitian was coined at the Lake Placid Conference on Home Economics.
      • South M.L.
      Reflections of a diamond: 75 years for ADA.
      These women also created the first definition of a dietitian: “persons who specialize in the knowledge of food and can meet the demands of the medical profession for diet therapy.”
      • South M.L.
      Reflections of a diamond: 75 years for ADA.
      Records of these early meetings noted that in a discussion by Mary Swartz Rose and Lenna F. Cooper, the terms dietist and dietician were both used.
      • Cassell J.A.
      Carry the Flame: The History of the American Dietetic Association.
      In 1917, when the American Home Economist Association meeting was cancelled because of World War I, Lenna Cooper and Lulu Graves decided there should be an opportunity for the dietitians in the country to meet and discuss the issues facing the hospital dietitian—and the American Dietetic Association was founded. The dietitian’s role continued to expand into a wide variety of job opportunities in social service organizations and institutions, child care programs, and as cafeteria managers in clubs, hotels, and schools. A new title arose around 1920, and some dietitians were called nutrition workers. Mary Swartz Rose noted that this term was awkward, and it gradually became nutritionist.
      • Cassell J.A.
      Carry the Flame: The History of the American Dietetic Association.
      The correct or preferable spelling of dietitian has been a long-standing matter for the profession of dietetics. In 1930, the ADA executive committee at the 13th Annual Meeting considered a variety of issues, one being the official spelling of dietitian with a “t”—and this was the spelling that was adopted.
      • Cassell J.A.
      Carry the Flame: The History of the American Dietetic Association.
      In 1940, an ADA committee was formed to update the definition of dietitian, which became a person “who had college training in the science of nutrition and management and is proficient in the art of feeding individuals and groups.” A nutritionist in a public agency was a “qualified, professionally trained person who directs or carries on a program of activities dealing with the application of scientific knowledge of nutrition to the prevention of disease and the promotion of positive health.”
      • Cassell J.A.
      Carry the Flame: The History of the American Dietetic Association.
      The spelling of dietitian continued to be controversial. In 1954, the ADA Courier mentioned that Time Magazine reported “the word dietitian is among the 20 most misspelled words.”
      • Cassell J.A.
      Carry the Flame: The History of the American Dietetic Association.
      Moving forward into the early 1960s, dietetic associations, under the auspices of the International Committee of Dietetic Associations (ICDA), worked together to standardize information about dietitians under the International Standard Classification of Occupations. When the International Labour Office confirmed the dietetic profession’s classification in 1967, it also adopted the spelling dietitian at the request of the international dietetic community.

      Sharp M. The “c” in dietitians—A long history and fading future (maybe). Dietetics Around the World. Newsletter from the International Confederation of Dietetics Associations. 2010; vol 17, issue 2. http://www.internationaldietetics.org/Newsletter/Vol17Issue2/Feature-Article/The-c-in-dietitians-a-long-history-and-fading-futu.aspx. Accessed December 16, 2014.

      Still to this day some dictionaries list dietician as an accepted alternate, but, as noted, the official spelling dating back to 1930 still stands.
      Confusion continued regarding the role of the dietitian and nutritionist. In 2010, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics began exploring the option of offering the registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) credential. The 2013 joint meeting of the major organizational units (Commission on Dietetic Registration, Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics, Council on Future Practice, Education Committee, and Nutrition and Dietetics Educators and Preceptors DPG) supported moving forward with the use of the RDN credential. Incorporating nutritionist into the RD credential highlights that “all registered dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.”

      Commission of Dietetic Registration (CDR). RDN Credential—Frequently Asked Questions. http://www.cdrnet.org/news/rdncredentialfaq. Accessed December 18, 2014.

      As we enter the month of March, the Academy celebrates the eighth Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day

      Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day. http://www.eatright.org/NNM/content.aspx?id=5189#.VJMrkV4DA. Accessed December 18, 2015.

      and acknowledges the contributions and expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.

      References

        • Cassell J.A.
        Carry the Flame: The History of the American Dietetic Association.
        American Dietetic Association, Chicago, IL1990
        • South M.L.
        Reflections of a diamond: 75 years for ADA.
        J Am Diet Assoc. August 1993; 93: 892-896
      1. Sharp M. The “c” in dietitians—A long history and fading future (maybe). Dietetics Around the World. Newsletter from the International Confederation of Dietetics Associations. 2010; vol 17, issue 2. http://www.internationaldietetics.org/Newsletter/Vol17Issue2/Feature-Article/The-c-in-dietitians-a-long-history-and-fading-futu.aspx. Accessed December 16, 2014.

      2. Commission of Dietetic Registration (CDR). RDN Credential—Frequently Asked Questions. http://www.cdrnet.org/news/rdncredentialfaq. Accessed December 18, 2014.

      3. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day. http://www.eatright.org/NNM/content.aspx?id=5189#.VJMrkV4DA. Accessed December 18, 2015.