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By David Mendosa

Last Update: September 1, 1999

A dietitian is such an important member of the health care team for people with diabetes that its organization even has the same initials as the American Diabetes Association.

This is an inviting and attractive site.

Both organizations are known as the ADA, but the organization for dietitians is the American Dietetic Association. Based in Chicago, this other ADA is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals.

Both of these ADAs often work closely together. For example, when the American Diabetes Association updated its the Nutrition Recommendations and Principles for People With Diabetes Mellitus in 1994, the American Dietetic Association published the same thing in its journal.

There are even more ADAs to confuse you when you type in the URL, but they don't work as closely together. There are the American Dental Association, Applied Digital Access Inc., Audio Design Associates Inc., and probably even more.

The American Dietetic Association's members help shape the food choices for members of the general public. They are especially important for people with diabetes, because what we eat has such a big impact on how we control our disease.

The association's 69,000 members are predominantly registered dietitians, says Webmaster Paul Kroll. But its membership also includes dietetic technicians, students, and others holding degrees in nutrition and dietetics.

Registered dietitians usually add the initials RD after their names. The Commission on Dietetic Registration is the credentialing agency for the American Dietetic Association.

To become an RD you need a bachelor's degree, completion of a program in dietetics, 900 hours of supervised practice, and an examination. And then you need to take 75 more hours of approved continuing professional education every five years.

What if your health care team doesn't include a registered dietitian? You could look up who are the RDs in your area at Find a Registered Dietitian. You can limit your search to those who provide individual or group consultation or who give programs and workshops, and you can pick the specialty you want.

I think this directory is one of the best parts of the site. But it doesn't include all of the association's members.

"It specifically includes members who have requested to be on this list," Kroll says. "There are a large number of dietitians for whom it would not be useful for them to be on the list because they work in a hospital or private industry and don't offer services to the general public."

Kroll thinks the best part of the site is the Nutrition Resources pages. Here you will find everything from a daily nutrition tip to excerpts from the association's publications.

While much of the site's information is aimed at professionals, the daily tips are the most consumer-oriented part of the site and are of special interest to people with diabetes, Kroll says. He did a search of the word "diabetes" and found it mentioned on more than 300 pages of the site's 1,400 pages.

Kroll has done an outstanding job as the association's Webmaster. This is an inviting and attractive site.

The organization is clear that its preferred spelling is dietitian, not dietician, which seems to be the preferred term in some other countries. The only question that the site didn't answer for me was the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist.

Kroll says that the question "elicits a bit of controversy," but the association doesn't call them nutritionists. Dietitians will often say they are nutritionists, and nutritionists will say they are dealing in dietetics.

It doesn't really matter what you call them—just as long as you do call them. 

The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.

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