The role of natural health products (NHPs) in dietetic practice: results from a survey of Canadian dietitians.

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BACKGROUND: Registered dietitians (RDs) play a key role in disseminating information about nutrition and intervening in nutrition-related disorders in the Canadian context. Natural health products (NHPs) are increasingly associated with nutrition in patient and health professional discussions. For this study, NHPs were divided into three categories: nutritional supplements (NS); functional foods/nutraceuticals (FF/N); and herbal preparations (HP). The objective was to explore RDs' perceptions about their professional roles and responsibilities with respect to three categories of natural health products (NHPs). METHODS: This research consisted of an on-line survey of registered dietitians (RDs) in Ontario.Surveys were distributed electronically to all practicing RDs in Ontario by the College of Dietitians of Ontario. There were 558 survey respondents, a response rate of 20%. RESULTS: The vast majority of RDs reported being consulted by clients about all product categories (98% for NS; 94% for FF/N; 91% for HP), with RDs receiving the most frequent questions about NS and the least frequent about HP. 74% of RDs believed that NS are included within the current scope of practice, compared to 59% for FF/N and 14% for HP. Even higher numbers believed that these products should be included: 97% for NS, 91% for FF/N and 47% for HP. RDs who report personally ingesting FF/N and HP were significantly more likely to report that these products should be in the dietetic scope of practice. In contrast, RDs who provide one-on-one counselling services or group-level counselling/workshops were significantly less likely to believe HP should be in the dietetic scope of practice. CONCLUSIONS: Opinions of RDs indicated that NS and FF/N (and possibly HP) fall within, or should fall within, RDs' scope of practice. Opportunity exists for RDs to undertake a professional role with respect to NHPs. Policy clarification regarding RD roles is needed.
Title of abstract: 
The role of natural health products (NHPs) in dietetic practice: results from a survey of Canadian dietitians.
Author: 
Hirschkorn K, Walji R, Boon H.
Affiliations: 
The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, University of Ottawa
Citedate: 
Monday, December 31, 2012 - 19:00
Citation: 
BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013 Jul 3;13:156.
 

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