What Is Dietetics?

The study of diet and nutrition as it relates to health and illness is known as dietetics. The field encompasses a wide variety of applications for individuals and entire populations. Clinical dietetics, for example, focuses on providing sick patients with the proper nutrition they need to get well. This is called medical nutrition therapy and is often employed with those who have diabetes, cancer and other conditions which require dietary changes for management. Community dietetics, on the other hand, deals with particular groups of people and comes up with programs that seek to encourage healthy eating and living among them. This may involve the entire community or with certain populations like the elderly, those who are pregnant or adolescents. Dietetics may also involve planning meal programs for institutions like prisons or schools.

Not everyone has the same nutritional requirements. Infants only need milk, preferably breastmilk, to get all the nutrition they need. Toddlers obviously need more than milk to be able to stay healthy. The carbohydrate, protein, vitamin and mineral requirements for a young adult are different from that of an elderly woman with different health issues. Dietetics covers the information on what nutrition is needed at different stages in a person’s life, for different conditions and level of activities.

The professionals who focus their lives in this field are known as dietitians. They typically possess a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, food and nutrition and related areas. Many of them have also earned the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist credential to prove their expertise in the field. When meeting with patients, they evaluate the latter’s health and ask about their regular diet. For example, they may find that someone who has been diagnosed with high blood pressure continue to have a diet that is high in sodium and fat content. From there, the dietitian will then recommend a plan of helping the client transition to a healthier meal plan that is low on fat and salt to keep his blood pressure levels from spiking. It should be understood that proper diet is just one component of a multidisciplinary approach to disease. Dietitians typically work with doctors and other healthcare professionals to manage different health conditions.

The field of dietetics is also used in institutional settings like nursing care homes, residential care facilities, schools and prisons. Known as management dietetics, the professionals who are working in these facilities prepare meals that have the health and nutritional requirements of the people found in these places in mind. Thus, the menu for school children found in cafeterias is designed to provide them with the energy and vitality they need to keep up with schoolwork and activities. For geriatric residents in nursing homes who have health conditions, the recipes are also going to cater to their special health needs.

Dietetics is also concerned with teaching communities and populations the ways by which they can improve their health and wellbeing by following proper dietary regimens. Making simple dietary changes can go a long way in strengthening their immune systems so that it is able to protect the body against various disease conditions.

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