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Dietetic Technicians


Dietetics is the study of food preparation, diet planning, and the impact of nutrition on health and well being. What was perhaps the first scientific nutritional discovery leading to our modern understanding in this field occurred in 1780. Antoine Lavoisier, sometimes called the "father of nutrition," and Pierre-Simon LaPlace realized that metabolism, the physiological process in which food is broken down and used, is a form of combustion. This discovery, coupled with Lavoisier's other work in the field, opened the way to much fruitful research into how and why fats, carbohydrates, and proteins affect health.

By the end of the 19th century, there was a great deal of knowledge concerning the benefits of good nutrition and proper food handling and interest in nutrition was substantial. People also became aware of the importance of various minerals in the diet. Around the turn of the century, several hospitals began to teach dietetics to nurses, stressing cooking as a means of therapy for the sick. Other workers were hired as specialists to prepare food for hospital patients in accordance with the most advanced knowledge of the day. The modern field of dietetics grew out of such early hospital work.

In 1917, the American Dietetic Association was formed with 39 charter members. It worked to promote and disseminate educational materials to the public in order to improve the dietary habits of individuals and groups. Today, working under the name of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it still serves as the principal professional organization for advancing the fields of dietetics and nutrition.

As the field of dietetics grew, it encompassed a wider range of activities; several separate categories of workers evolved, differentiated by their level of training and their type of activity. Two important levels of workers now are dietitians and dietetic technicians. The position of dietetic technician is a relatively recent innovation, dating back to the early 1970s. It was designed to provide assistance to dietitians and relieve them of some of their more routine tasks, allowing them to concentrate on work that only they are trained to do. The separate status of dietetic technicians was given a boost in 1972 by a report of the Study Commission on Dietetics, an affiliate of the American Dietetic Association, urging various changes in the field and greater coordination of dietetics with other allied health professions.

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