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Becoming a Dietitian

Would I enjoy a career as a dietitian?

If you are interested in food, nutrition and health, enjoy communicating with people and have an aptitude for science – an exciting future lies ahead of you when you become an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD).

Dietitians need to have a critical and enquiring mind, good organisational skills and initiative, good written and verbal communication skills, and be able to work effectively with people.

What do dietitians do?

Dietitians apply the art and science of human nutrition to help people understand food and health relationships and make dietary choices to get the most out of their lifestyle.

Dietitians are trained to:

  • understand food science;
  • interpret nutrition science;assess people's nutritional needs;
  • advise on nutrition and diet for general good health or for special needs such as sport or medical conditions;
  • implement and manage nutrition services and programs;
  • teach others;
  • undertake research; and
  • develop nutrition communications, nutrition programs and policies.

What are my career options?

The diverse range of job opportunities and working conditions for dietitians will enable you to develop a wide variety of interests and skills and use them in many different situations.

  • Patient care Working as part of a health care team in hospitals and nursing homes, dietitians are responsible for assessing the nutritional needs of patients, planning appropriate diets and educating patients and their families.
  • Community nutrition and public health Dietitians are involved in nutrition and health education programs. This can be at the local community level or for the population at a national level. Dietitians working in public health also assist with health planning, setting nutritional standards, and developing and implementing nutrition policies.
  • Food service and management Dietitians combine management skills and nutrition expertise when delivering food services in hospitals, nursing homes, meals on wheels, hospitality and catering. Dietitians also manage nutrition services and health programs.
  • Consultancy/private practice Dietitians provide consultancy services to individuals, groups and organisations which include individual counselling, group programs, preventive health programs and nutrition education. Dietitians also prepare nutritional information for publication, work with the media and in public relations.
  • Food industry Dietitians working in the food industry are involved in food regulatory issues (food law), food safety and quality systems, consumer and health professional education, nutrition research, product development, nutrition-related marketing and public relations.
  • Research and teaching Dietitians work as part of research teams investigating nutrition and health issues and developing practical nutrition recommendations. Dietitians are also involved in training student dietitians, doctors and other health professionals.
  • Other fields Dietitians are able to transfer their skills to other fields such as management, public relations, marketing, program management, communications, media, health promotion, policy development and information technology.

What are the salaries – public sector and private practice fees?

In the public healthcare sector dietitians' salaries are similar to other allied health professionals, nurses and teachers. To find out about salaries you should visit the website of the relevant State/Territory Departments of Health or obtain the relevant awards (eg Health Professionals), collective agreements or enterprise agreements in your State or Territory.

In other work areas dietitians' salaries reflect salaries for that industry, e.g. university lecturers. It is against the Trade Practices Act for DAA to set or recommend fees therefore dietitians in private practice or consulting do set their own fees. DAA does survey members on what fees are being charged and the survey results are provided as a guide to what you may expect to pay if consulting a dietitian.

What course do I select?

To become a dietitian you need to complete a tertiary level course accredited by DAA. Currently there are courses in ACT, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. Courses vary depending on the university. Some examples of current courses include: a one to two year post-graduate diploma or master degree following a bachelor of science degree (including physiology and biochemistry), or a four year integrated undergraduate course. Courses cover food, nutrition, health and diet-related medical conditions, and skills in communication, counselling, education, health promotion, management, research and critical analysis of literature.

How will my expertise be recognised?

Accredited Practising Dietitians (APD) are recognised professionals who have the qualifications and expertise to provide expert nutrition and dietary advice. APDs need to meet detailed criteria developed by DAA. These include ongoing education to keep up to date with advances in health and food sciences and a commitment to a Code of Professional Conduct. All APDs can be identified by the APD title and logo, and are listed on a national APD register.

Source: Dietitians Association of Australia

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Folate Helps Repair Damage Due to Ageing

Since the 1960s, researchers have been studying how the water-soluble vitamin supports the healthy functioning of cells. They discovered that it's essential for cell division and replication, making it especially important for expectant mothers.

It's also important to proper replication of DNA and RNA — a lack of folate has been linked to genetic mutations that can lead to cancer.

Folate is commonly found in leafy green vegetables like spinach and turnip greens. Since 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has mandated that many foods, such as rice, flour and cornmeal, be enriched with a synthetic folate known as folic acid.

While folate deficiency is no longer a problem in the U.S., it remains widespread in developing nations and much of Europe, where enriching grain products is not widely practiced.

This new research, funded by the National Science Foundation and originally sparked by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, links folate to the production or repair of compounds called iron-sulfur clusters through a recently discovered intermediary protein called COG0354.

These clusters are part of the mechanism cells use to produce energy and carry out other vital reactions. But they are also sensitive to a byproduct of the energy-producing process: highly reactive oxygen-based molecules, some of which are called free radicals.

The oxidative stress caused when these molecules pollute a cell has been linked to cell death and aging, as well as to conditions such as atherosclerosis, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, Alzheimer's, fragile X syndrome and many more.

Examining the folate-iron-sulfur cluster link required the team to pull experience from not only UF's microbiology and cell science and food science and human nutrition departments, but also the McKnight Brain Institute and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.

Expertise from the latter two institutions was needed because the researchers used nuclear magnetic resonance analysis to observe folate interacting with COG0354 protein — molecular-scale activity that could otherwise only have been shown indirectly, said Arthur Edison, the NHMFL's director of chemistry and biology and an associate professor with UF's biochemistry and molecular biology department.

The researchers have found that COG0354 is present in creatures from each of the six kingdoms of life, from mice and plants to one-cell organisms that may predate bacteria.

The findings will open new avenues of study into the overall mechanism of oxidative stress repair, and may someday lead to new medicines. For now, the researchers emphasize that this is another example of the vitamin's importance in one's diet.

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