July 4, 2012
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Dietetics means the study of food and nutrition with reference to health and is a very complex area of study. In the USA dieticians are required to be registered with the American Dietetic Association and as well as having to achieve a level of education and training as laid down by the ADA must also continue to train and keep up a good working knowledge of the science of dietetics. A bachelor’s degree is the first requirement and this is then followed by a set number of hours of practical experience, with an accredited agency or body. Dietitians work in all kinds of environments, not just hospitals. Some doctors’ practices employ dietitians and also some schools and the military find their input essential for keeping the health and wellbeing of everyone involved at a high level.
Worldwide, there is considered to be an obesity problem which is reaching very serious levels. Children in particular are showing huge increases in average weight and also low levels of exercise. In many cases the child is so obese that medical intervention has to be sought and gastric bands and other surgical methods are used to drastically reduce food intake. This is firefighting – the only real way to combat serious obesity in the long term is to retrain the person to follow a nutritious diet for the rest of their life. This is where the dietitian, possibly with the help of a registered dietetic technician comes in. The diet employed for each person has to be tailored precisely to their body shape and metabolism and also of course to any idiosyncrasies of diet – unless this includes burgers, fries and thick shakes, of course!
The educational requirements for studying to become a dietitian or dietetic technician are mainly science based, as the training will involve a lot of biochemistry as well as obtaining a very deep understanding of the biological processes by which food is digested and assimilated by the body. An interest in sport and sport technology probably goes with the territory of being interested in how food and its intake affect the workings of the body in health and disease, but this is not a necessity. Some dietitians make a special study of allergies and how to discover what they are and how to nevertheless provide a healthy and balanced diet for the affected person. This is a fascinating area of study, as an allergy can be present from birth or may present much later in life. Certain conditions carry with them a food intolerance which is not curable but if improved will help make the general quality of life so very much better. Again, creating a workable diet for people affected by celiac disease and other serious intolerances is a challenge which brings a very high degree of job satisfaction.