Ever wondered what the difference is between a dietitian, nutritionist and nutritional therapist? We’ve got the low-down


What is a nutritional therapist? And why is it important for nutritional therapists to be registered?

Because the term is not protected in law, anyone can call themselves a nutritional therapist. However, practitioners who have undertaken accredited training can register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) to become a registered nutritional therapist, and can also register with the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT). At ION, this is important to us. Our degree course enables all our graduates to become a registered nutritional therapist.

Registered nutritional therapy practitioners apply a science-based approach, using nutrition, to promote individual health. They may use a wide range of tools, such as testing for individual nutrient status, to assess and identify potential nutritional imbalances and to understand how these may contribute to an individual's symptoms and health concerns.

Registered practitioners consider each individual to be unique and recommend personalised nutrition and lifestyle programmes rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. They will never recommend nutritional therapy as a replacement for medical advice, will often work alongside medical professionals, and will always refer clients with ‘red flag’ signs or symptoms to their medical professional.

Find out more about how to become a nutritional therapist

What is a dietitian?

In contrast to nutritional therapists, dietitians mainly work in the National Health Service or private clinics treating complex clinical conditions such as diabetes, food allergies and intolerances, IBS syndrome, eating disorders, chronic fatigue, malnutrition, kidney failure and bowel disorders. 

Only those registered with the statutory regulator, the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC), can call themselves a dietitian and the only route to become one is through degree-level education.

The minimum requirement is a BSc Hons in Dietetics or a related science degree with a postgraduate diploma or higher degree in Dietetics.

What is a nutritionist?

Nutrition scientists (nutritionists) often work outside of the clinical context in research, industry or education.

There are many courses of varying lengths available in nutrition, hence anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. However, courses that have applied and met strict standards of professional education in nutrition are accredited by the Association for Nutrition (AfN). Professionals from accredited courses can then apply to the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN) and call themselves a Registered Nutritionist (RNutrs).


Interested in finding out more about nutritional therapy?

Find out about some of the different aspects of working as a nutritional therapist.

Download our eBook "Why become a Nutritional Therapist"

Stories from our graduates, now working in nutritional therapy

Ready to take the next step?

Find out more about studying with ION.

Sign up for our next free information webinar about studying as a Nutritional Therapist with ION.

About ION:

ION is a leading provider of accredited nutritional therapy training, established in 1984. ION’s BSc (Hons) Nutritional Therapy is validated by the University of Portsmouth. Be part of a growing community of nutritional therapists and build a rewarding, flexible career helping others to make positive lifestyle changes.