dietitian and a nutritionist

What are the differences between a dietitian and a nutritionist?

In terms of food, we all have different needs. Weight loss, diabetes, special diets… So many situations can lead us to consult a professional. Yes, but which one? What’s the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?

Two different roles

First major difference: the nutritionist is a doctor, while the dietitian is not. As a doctor, the nutritionist is therefore there to prevent and detect nutrition-related diseases and disorders, to treat diseases such as obesity, diabetes, intolerance… He or she is also there to treat eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia or eating phobias. By his status, the nutritionist can also prescribe tests or medication.

The dietitian is a health professional and has a rather different role. His work is rather focused on re-balancing the diet, with a view to weight loss or the implementation of special diets (salt-free diet, …). He is therefore in a role of trainer, prevention and dietary monitoring. He develops personalized dietary programs adapted to each of his patients. He also follows their evolution. The dietitian bases his work on the age and needs of his patients. He can intervene with young children, adolescents or adults. He may sometimes work in collaboration with a doctor.

What training for what profession?

The difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist therefore begins at the study stage. After six years in medicine, the nutritionist doctor can go down several paths. He or she can do an internship with a specialty in endocrinology-diabetology. He can then continue with a doctorate in nutrition (which most often leads to research). He can also follow a University Diploma (DU) or Inter-University Diploma (DIU) in nutrition. These last two diplomas are however not recognized by the National Council of the Order of Physicians.

The dietitian, for his part, will most often have to start with a scientific High School Diploma, a High School Diploma in STL (Sciences and Technology of Laboratories) or a High School Diploma in Sciences and Technologies of Health and Social. He will then undertake a Higher National Diploma in Dietetics over two years (sometimes three if he chooses an option). Alternatively, he may choose to do a University Diploma of Technology (DUT) in Biological Engineering with a dietary option in two years.

What are the conditions of consultation?

Another difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist is the condition of consultation, because of his status as a health professional, the dietitian is free to set his fees. The latter will therefore depend on the practitioner’s location, his or her diplomas and specialties, as well as the way he or she works. The price range is generally between 25 and 70 €. He can work as a self-employed, in a hospital environment, in conjunction with doctors. He can also work for communities (school or company canteens…). As he is not a doctor, his fees are not covered by Social Security. However, some insurance companies partially refund consultations.

The nutritionist doctor is also quite free of his fees. Depending on the location and his specialties, the fee can be between 20 and 90 €. He can work in a hospital or as a self-employed, which can influence his fees. However, the Social Security covers reimbursement on the basis of a consultation with the doctor, i.e. 25 €, with the possibility of exceeding the fee. Some insurance companies may also supplement the reimbursement.