Nutrition is the study of food, essential nutrients, and other substances in food and their effects on the body in relation to health and disease. It concerns how we eat, digest, absorb, use, and excrete the many components of food. The study of nutrition encompasses psychological and social perspectives as well as biochemical and physiological approaches.
Nutritionists work in many different settings. Public health nutritionists may focus on developing programs to improve the nutritional status of specific populations, such as expectant mothers or the elderly. Community nutritionists may counsel individuals how to improve their diets, or develop educational materials on nutrition. These types of nutritionists often work for governmental agencies. They usually have obtained a bachelor's degree in nutrition, and often have advanced degrees, such as a master's degree in public health or science.There are also many opportunities in nutrition research, usually in a university or research institute. Nutritional epidemiologists, for example, study associations between nutrient intake and disease incidence in populations. Nutritional biochemists investigate how too little or too much of specific nutrients, both essential and nonessential, affect metabolic pathways and the development of various diseases. These positions require a B.S. in a biological science, with a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) in nutrition or closely related field.
Dietitians have completed a B.S. in nutrition from an accredited program and completed an approved internship, as certified by the American Dietetics Association. Dietitians often work in hospitals or clinics providing nutritional services to patients. They also manage food service operations in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and universities.
Since nutrition is a biological science, high school courses in math and the sciences are necessary. Strong communication and computer skills are also extremely important. In college, nutrition degrees include courses in chemistry, physiology, and biochemistry, similar to other biological majors.
Daniel D. Gallaher