Caveat Emptor: Buyer Beware when it comes to New Year fitness

Michelle Heffernan Reports

This month many of us will resolve to make lifestyle changes to benefit our health, fitness and wellbeing.
All kinds of businesses will promise an appealing consultation from a self-declared health expert on the best diet, exercise or leisure routine for us.
But many persons pertaining to hold a license or title in fitness or nutrition do not hold the necessary clinical qualifications to deliver health advice.

Diet & Nutrition

According to the INDI (Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute), a Dietitian is the ONLY type of health professional qualified to assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems. The title “dietitian” or “registered dietitian” is a title protected by law, so only a person who has met the required educational qualifications (i.e. a BSc specialising in food and nutrition) can call themselves a dietitian.
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Dietitians are the only health professionals that can be employed by the HSE and they are held accountable for their work by law through CORU- Ireland’s multi profession health regulator.
“Nutritionist” or “nutritional therapist” are both titles NOT protected by law in this country and there is no register of Nutritionists in Ireland.
While many nutritionists of course have studied Human Nutrition or Nutritional Science, the fact that there is no regulation means anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. There are also many courses of varying lengths that claim to train “nutritional therapists”.
Some “nutritional therapists” can engage in practices that are not evidence based and not grounded in conventional medicine such as detox diets, food supplements or food intolerance testing.
If you are looking for advice in relation to your diet and nutrition it is advised to ask the practitioner about their background and qualifications to ensure they are properly qualified and regulated. You can search for a recognised dietitian under ‘Find a Dietitian’ on www.indi.ie or see coru.ie for more information on the regulation of health care professionals in Ireland.

Sports & Fitness

Currently the only physical health professionals in Ireland regulated by CORU are physiotherapists. However this does not mean sports and fitness instructors do not have recognised qualifications. QQI (Quality and Qualifications Ireland) is the State Agency responsible for quality and accountability in education and training services in Ireland.
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A professional with a QQI accredited qualification will be guaranteed to have a quality training background that is both nationally and internationally recognised.
Any QQI recognised training course holds a level on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). Levels relate to depth and breadth of study involved, e.g. a Higher Certificate is usually a Level 6 course while an Honours degree is at Level 8 on the NFQ.
When consulting a fitness professional, it is advisable to ask if their qualification is QQI accredited and what level training has been received. Remember any company can award a “certificate” or “diploma”.
Indeed, there is NO training required to become an instructor for some exercise programmes. Ask for a professional with a QQI recognised qualification to ensure you are putting your body in the right hands.

If you are looking for information on health industry regulation, or would like to find a
registered health professional visit www.coru.ie. For more information on
Quality and Qualifications Ireland, see qqi.ie

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