Survey finds that almost 60% of people trust nutrition advice from underqualified professionals

08 Jun 2017

A recent Populus survey of over 2000 people conducted on behalf of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) shows that the UK public don’t know who to trust for advice on diet and nutrition. The poll showed 58% of people stated that they would trust diet and nutrition advice provided to them by their personal trainer and fitness instructor.

Nutrition and diet qualifications undertaken by personal trainers and fitness instructors will vary, with some online courses available that last as little as 12 weeks or even less, before an individual is classed as ‘qualified’. Additionally there is no governing body to quality assure the nutrition training that these professionals undertake and there is no legal body to report these individuals to if the dietary advice they provide is incorrect or unsafe.

As part of their annual Dietitians Week, the BDA is encouraging people to seek sensible, evidence-based diet advice, from a qualified professional, such as a registered dietitian. From 12-16 June, the BDA is promoting and highlighting the importance of Evidence and Expertise in relation to diet and nutrition. The BDA was pleased to see that 82% of people surveyed said they would trust a dietitian for their dietary advice. Dietitians are the only legally regulated nutrition professionals in the UK and must complete a three-year degree as a minimum requirement. They provide diet and nutrition advice based only on the most up-to-date evidence and report to a governing body called the Health and Care Professions Council.

The British Dietetic Association, founded in 1936, is the professional association and trade union for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with almost 9,000 members.

Young people were found to be most likely to put their trust in less scientific sources of diet and nutrition advice. In the 18-24 year-old age group, 75% said they trusted such advice provided to them by a personal trainer or fitness instructor. 41% of this same age group would trust the advice of a “healthy eating blogger”.

The BDA’s survey also found that 35% of people would trust diet and nutrition advice provided to them by a TV chef and that women were particularly vulnerable to trusting underqualified or unqualified professionals.

Siân O’Shea, Registered Dietitian, said, “Following diet and nutrition advice that is not based on sound research and evidence is less likely to be effective and can pose a threat to your health and may cause severe harm.”

The same Populus survey also found that 40% of the public have tried or considered trying a “fad” diet in an attempt to lose weight. These diets are often promoted by celebrities or come from other unqualified sources, but with little evidence to support them.

“Fad diets often promise unrealistic outcomes and some are actually unsafe,” continued Siân. “If you follow unsafe dietary advice, you may become deficient in key nutrients, which can lead to various issues such a fatigue, weak bones, malnutrition or worse. This is why it is so important to make sure you get advice from a properly trained professional such as a registered dietitian.”

Dietitians Week

The BDA’s annual Dietitians Week aims to promote the importance of dietitians and the great impact they can have on the nation’s health and wellbeing. This year the week runs from 12-16 June and is taking the theme of Evidence and Expertise. This is to promote the importance of ensuring that dietary and nutrition advice comes from evidence-based sources, whilst highlighting the risk of following guidance that is not scientifically credible. To find out more about Dietitians Week, visit

As part of Dietitians Week, the BDA will also be hosting an event in Leeds called Eat Fact Not Fiction, on Monday 12 June, looking at the risks of poor diet advice. This event is open to the public. Find out more at:

Looking for free, sensible advice on diet, with topics varying from skin health, to weight loss, to healthy snacking? View the BDA’s FREE Food Fact Sheets:


Notes to the Editor:

•             Populus, on behalf of the BDA, surveyed 2068 people in March 2017. Full tables can be found here.

•             Find out more about the BDA at  

•             Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. Uniquely, dietitians use the most up to date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.

•             Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be statutorily regulated, and governed by an ethical code, to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. Dietitians work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, non-government organisations and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government, local communities and individuals.