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Nutritionists are medical practitioners who make recommendations to clients concerning how food contributes to a healthy lifestyle.

Scientists have been studying the relationship between food and health since the 18th century, and clinical nutrition continues to grow as a discipline embraced by both traditional and alternative medical practitioners. Nutritionists study the ways in which carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals are processed by the body. They advise clients on the consumption of nutrient-rich foods and supplements to achieve optimal health. Common nutritional supplements include: vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and many others.

A client can visit a nutritionist for preventative or healing purposes. The practitioner may ask the client to record a diary of his/her food and supplement consumption over a specific period of time prior to the visit. At the beginning of the visit, the practitioner asks the client about his/her medical history and requests laboratory tests to determine whether the client has any nutritional deficiencies and/or “overloads.” Then, the nutritionist makes an individualized recommendation — for example, to make lifestyle changes, to take certain supplements, to exercise more, etc. — based upon his/her assessment of the client’s medical history and laboratory tests. In follow-up visits, the practitioner will evaluate the client’s progress.

Nutritionists help to treat and prevent a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, gastrointestinal conditions, and cancer.