Professional route to nutrition and dietetics

Professional route to nutrition and dietetics

Rapid growth

Professional route to nutrition and dietetics

Need for improved dietary habits has increased the want of professional nutritionists and dieticians, writes Anjali Khanna.

Nutrition and Dietetics is the science of nutrients in food and their actions within the body. A course on nutrition and dietetics can offer an exciting career opportunity. The course focuses on studying the chemical and biological components of our food and the ways in which these ingredients affect our health. Students of nutrition and dietetics study the role of foods and nutrients in health promotion and disease treatment as well as the psychological and cultural factors that influence food choices. Conventionally, in India, it is the women who venture into this domain. However, due to ample opportunities now-a-days, men are also pursuing careers in this field.

Objectives

* To identify nutrition and dietary problems in segments of populations

* To devise socially, economically and technologically viable methods to control
nutrition and dietary problems

* To devise new management and administration techniques to monitor nutrition and dietetics

* To encourage research on nutrition and develop future scientists

* To advise governments and health bodies on issues related to nutrition

Demand and supply

The demand for nutritionists has greatly increased over the past few years due to increased awareness amongst people to stay healthy and avoid high calorie unplanned diets leading to obesity, hypertension and other food related diseases. But the supply is low when compared with the demand. Yet, there are leading nutritionists and doctors in the country who have appeared often on TV channels and joined leading companies to design their food charts as well.

Job outlook

Employment of dietitians is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2014 as a result of increasing emphasis on disease prevention through improved dietary habits. A growing and aging population will boost the demand for meals and nutritional counseling in hospitals, residential care facilities, schools, prisons, community health programs, and home health care agencies. Public interest in nutrition and increased emphasis on health education and prudent lifestyles also will spur the demand.

Employment is expected to grow rapidly in contract providers of food services, in outpatient care centers, and in offices of physicians and other health practitioners.
With increased public awareness of degenerative disorders, medicare coverage will be expanded to include medical nutrition therapy for renal and diabetic patients. As a result, dietitians who have specialized training in renal or diabetic diets or have a master’s degree should experience good employment opportunities.  Almost all consumer product companies such as Nestle, Amul, Bournvita and Complan that manufacture consumable products hire dieticians into their research teams.

Besides these, there are several companies in other industries such as Apollo group of hospitals, AIIMS , Fortis and other private nursing homes that hire nutritionists and dieticians. Top-ended sports clubs and fitness centres also employ these professionals. There is a lot of scope for nutritionists and dietecians to  earn quite well and travel abroad as well.

Academic course

A nutrition and dietetics course engages in the following research areas :

* Meal planning and diet therapy

* Applied and community nutrition

* Product development and quality evaluation

* Development, nutritional evaluation and intervention of low-cholesterol foods, diabetic foods, and nutraceutical foods

Generally, academics in Nutrition and Dietetics can be a 4 years graduation, a 1-year post graduate diploma, a masters progamme, and a doctoral programme. The department should provide practical experience to students in the form of internship in various reputed hospitals as part of their curriculum. Also, students need to get many opportunities to enhance their skills in dietary counseling during various health nutrition events and in campus hospital. The Department of Nutrition and Dietetics should be well-equipped with facilities for high quality teaching, research, and extension.

The Department ought to have microbiology lab, food science lab, chemistry and biochemistry lab. Field training in assessment of dietary and nutrient intakes and also biochemical and nutritional status assessment, must form an important component of the programme.

All in all, a course in nutrition and dietetics must provide quantitative and methodological knowledge necessary to interpret the scientific literature and conduct nutritional research.

(The writer is the Associate Dean & HOS, School of Hospitality, Lovely Professional University)

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