Diet and nutrition are attracting more of a focus from health organizations and providers than ever before. Research and studies have been conducted to determine why the rate of obesity in the United States has risen so sharply in the last few years, and dieticians and nutritionists are integral in guiding patients toward proper health. Students in medical assistance programs that are pursuing a career in health care should be aware that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for positions in the field of nutrition is very positive, and the industry is projected to grow by 21 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than average.1
How nutritionists shape their patients’ health
Dieticians and nutritionists play an important role in their patients’ lives. They are responsible for working closely with individuals to assess their diet and health needs. They counsel patients on nutrition issues and discuss how to practice healthy eating habits. Dieticians also developing meal plans and can help patients understand how food affects overall health. Nutritionists can also be expected to promote healthier eating by conducting lectures for larger groups at hospitals or schools about diet, nutrition, and how good eating habits can prevent or manage certain illnesses.1
Students pursuing a medical assisting degree should be aware of the different fields they have the option to work in. Medical assistants can work with clinical dietitians and nutritionists to provide medical nutrition therapy by working in hospitals, private practice, long-term care facilities or clinics. These professionals create nutritional programs that are based on the health needs of their patients and they guide patients toward leading a healthier life. Clinical dietitians and nutritionists can also focus their practice by only working with patients with kidney diseases or diabetes.1
Community dietitians and nutritionists create healthy eating programs and counsel the public on different topics related to food and nutrition. These providers usually treat specific groups of patients, like adolescents or seniors. Community dietitians work in public health clinics, government and nonprofit agencies, or health maintenance organizations (HMOs). Lastly, management dietitians plan meal programs. They are found in food service settings from cafeterias to hospitals, prisons and schools. Management dieticians may also be responsible for purchasing food and conducting other business-related tasks such as budgeting and providing lectures on healthy nutrition. They may also oversee kitchen staff or other dietitians.1
Study links poor nutrition to serious diseases
A new study published in the health journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that Americans consume more sugar than they realize, and this unhealthy habit has been linked to more instances of death from cardiovascular diseases.2 Different organizations have published information on how much sugar Americans can safely consume. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that Americans should consume foods that contain less than 25 percent sugar (of the total calories). The American Heart Association has said that for women, sugar consumption should not amount to more than 100 calories per day, and for men it should be about 150 calories a day.2 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined the consumption of sugar and found that Americans consume more than what is recommended by WHO.2
According to the findings, the average percentage of daily calories in Americans’ diets from added sugars rose from more than 15 percent from 1988 to 1994 to nearly 17 percent from 1999 to 2004. However, the researchers found that between 2005 and 2010 there was a gradual decline in the consumption of sugar of almost 15 percent. More than 71 percent of American adults between 2005 and 2010 consumed 10 percent more sugar than is advised.2 Some 10 percent of those adults surveyed consumed 25 percent more calories from added sugars than is advised. The added sugar that researchers were studying comes from sweetened beverages, fruit drinks, desserts, candy and grain-based desserts. For example, a can of soda has 140 calories, with 35 grams of that coming from sugar, and an average American consumes 1.5 cans of soda per day.2 Dieticians and students interested in a career in the field of nutrition should be aware of these recommended daily values of sugar intake, and be prepared to guide their patients toward healthier eating habits.
New labels will affect consumption of sugars
The study published in JAMA revealed that the risk of death from cardiovascular diseases (CVD) rose dramatically in individuals who consumed a large amount of added sugars. Adults who regularly drank sugar sweetened beverages were at a significantly higher risk of dying prematurely from CVD than adults who did not consume as much sugar.2 Dieticians and nutritionists are just a few of the professionals that can make a difference in the way Americans consume sugars. By keeping patients informed on how their daily activities can affect their health in dramatic ways, nutritionists can guide people on a path to a better lifestyle, and stop the trend of people dying from CVD caused by poor nutrition.
For students preparing for a career in health care, the nutrition industry is a field where they could have an impact on the health of the entire country. Nutritionists and dieticians have influenced the creation of new nutrition labels and requiring food manufacturers to list any and all added sugars. Health care providers are aware that the U.S. has a generation of overweight children who may not live as long as their parents because of poor eating habits, and dieticians should be aware of how to combat that with education and information on healthier alternatives. 3 Because many dieticians and nutritionists work in hospital environments, students interested in careers as medical assistants or nurses should be aware of how their degree could translate seamlessly into a position counseling patients on better nutrition.
1 “Dietitians and Nutritionists,” Bureau of Labor and Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm
2 Matilda, Benita, “Consumption of Added Sugar Linked to Increased Risk of Death from Cardiovascular Disease,” Science World Report.com, Feb. 4, 2014, http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/12636/20140204/consumption-of-added-sugar-linked-to-increased-risk-of-death-from-cardiovascular-disease.htm
3 “New WHO Guidelines Advises Halving Sugar Intake to Six Teaspoons Per Day,” Science World Report.com, Mar. 5, 2014,