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What Does a Nutritionist Do?

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Nutritionists are responsible for helping people increase their physical and mental health through foods or special diets. They have extensive knowledge about nutrition, how it impacts people, and how it can prevent or treat certain illnesses. Nutritionists typically work in hospitals or outpatient care facilities, but sometimes also work for the government, for food production facilities, and even universities.


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Nutritionists help prevent and treat illnesses or increase a person's health by recommending certain foods or diets. Nutritionists evaluate a person's diet and modifies it to treat or prevent medical disorders. They may also create specialized diets for people in hospitals, recommend special diets for people with nutritional deficiencies, and recommend other diets that optimizes a person's physical and mental health.


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According to the University of Queensland, nutritionists can also specialize in certain fields. Clinical nutrition deals with nutrition and how it affects a particular disease, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, or how certain dietary components affect people, such as omega-3 fatty acids and carotenoids.

Community and public health nutrition deals with improving the health of populations. Nutritionists in this field are involved with the planning, evaluation, and implementation of food and nutrition policies, such as programs to prevent childhood obesity or promote healthy eating habits in communities.

Food industry nutrition deals with interpreting nutrition research and using the information to develop new food products for consumers. They are responsible for creating new foods for diets or new nutritional food products.

Fitness industry nutrition is responsible for developing new diet aids and dietary programs to help consumers optimize their nutrition needs to aid in their fitness goals. Professional sports athletes, runners, and people looking to get fit use nutritionists who specialize in this field to help them optimize their fitness levels.


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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), people must obtain a bachelor's degree in dietetics, food service systems management, or food and nutrition to practice nutrition. Required courses for graduation include nutrition, food, institution management, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, microbiology, and physiology classes. Graduates can also choose to obtain a master's degree, although it is not required.

Work Environment

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Nutritionists work in a variety of places, including hospitals, outpatient care facilities, community health centers, public health units, health departments, sports or recreation centers, food production facilities, food service facilities, hospitals, and universities.


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According to the BLS, nutritionists earned a median salary of $46,980 in May 2006. Nutritionists earned the most in outpatient care centers and general or surgical hospitals. They earned the least amount of money working for the local government.