This is a guestpost by Pixie Turner. To find out more about Pixie and her main links check the author box at the bottom of this post.
So you want to study nutrition?
Great! More and more people are taking an interest in nutrition, and clearly the best way to learn more about something is to study it. So you google “nutrition courses” and are bombarded by over 70 million results. Wow… but how do you decide which one to pick?
The answer to this depends on several factors:
- How old are you?
- What qualifications do you already have?
- How much time are you willing/able to invest in this?
- Do you intend to practice and work in nutrition on completion?
That last one is especially important.
If you’re looking to work as a nutritionist then the most respected and evidence-based route is to do a university course that’s accredited by the Association for Nutrition (AfN). That’s either a 3 year undergraduate degree or a 1 year postgraduate course, usually a Masters (MSc).
To find these courses, head to the AfN website to see their accredited courses all around the UK. These are the only courses that give you a direct route to becoming a Registered Nutritionist (ANutr then RNutr). But this route requires science A-levels or a biological sciences undergraduate degree. And it’s very heavily science-based, with intense biochemistry and physiology.
I maintain that if you want to practice as a nutritionist, if you deeply care about understanding both the science and the scientific process, then this is the best route to take.
This route isn’t possible for everyone though, I understand that.
That’s why the AfN website also has a list of courses which, although they don’t qualify you to be a registered nutritionist, are intended if you’re looking to gain personal knowledge or are useful if nutrition plays a role in your job in some way. You can find those here.
Courses in nutritional therapy or naturopathic medicine such as The Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION) are not endorsed by AfN, because they do not meet the strict evidence-based standards required. Instead they are often endorsed by British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy (BANT).
That’s not to say these courses aren’t good (although I haven’t yet found one I’d happily endorse) but should be examined with a sceptical eye.
It also doesn’t mean that nutritional therapists aren’t good at what they do, aren’t evidence-based, and are giving out unscientific advice.
Many BANT-registered therapists are brilliant, but many are at odds with the scientific consensus and preach anti-vaccine views or promote dangerous fad diets that have killed people in the past. So don’t discount them entirely, but be mindful of these courses. (Link)
(Although this is in the Daily Fail the experts they quote – Catherine Collins and George Grimble – are both excellent highly-qualified people and I trust them. The latter taught my masters course!)
There are a great many online courses which offer you titles such as “health coach”, or “nutrition coach”.
If you have the money to throw at these – ranging from £20 to several thousand – then feel free, but you’ll likely end up learning information that is outdated, unscientific, incorrect, and potentially harmful to clients. Sounds dramatic, but I regularly have to pick up the pieces from these so-called “experts” due to their fear mongering, dangerous practices.
Working in nutrition means dealing with people’s health.
That’s a serious responsibility, and that can have serious implications, positive or negative. Don’t cause harm to someone’s health just because you couldn’t be bothered to get a proper qualification.
As always, I’m happy to discuss and advise anyone on the right course for them, or analyse a particular course someone has in mind before the commit. If this is you, please get in touch via email or on social!