AMID recent reports of increasingly high death rates across South Africa due to lifestyle diseases, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s lifestyle sciences department has seen a surge in interest to study its new dietetics course.
Introduced last year with only 11 students, the programme now accommodates an additional 26, said part-time lecturer Annatjie Smith and head of department Annelie Gresse.
“Dietetics is the only profession registered at the Health Professional Council to do preventative and therapeutic nutrition,” said Smith, who saw her 15-year dream for the Eastern Cape to produce its own dietitians come true last year.
Not only that, she said, “Because most students mainly come from the Eastern Cape, we are fortunate to get a few bursaries from the Department of Health.”
Smith said dietitians were important in preventative health and the new BSc Dietetics would not only make a difference for the Bay but the rest of the province as “this is the only dietetic department with sport nutrition experience from their first year”.
According to Gresse the Bay community has a diverse population and the variation in lifestyle diseases is wide and “we have very few dietitians in our country and there are not enough to make enough of an impact on fighting the risk of lifestyle diseases”.
“Even though the Bay is often seen as more active than many other communities, there is incidence of obesity, metabolic syndrome and type-two diabetes mellitus is rising.
“In some parts people do not have the funds to buy enough fruit and vegetables and have to rely on energy sources that are high in fat or high in carbohydrates with not enough other nutrients.”
Gresse proudly said the course had students from across the world “including Pakistan, Cameroon and Namibia”.
“From the first year we take the students into the community (hospitals, clinics and sport nutrition).
“We encourage them to spread the message to the community around them.
“The department hopes producing well-qualified dietitians will help increase the number of dietitians and provide well- trained professionals to assess risk, educate the community and assist in behavioural change.”
Tsholofelo Mohloane, 19, who has a family history of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity, said this background “was one of the factors that drew me to dietetics”. Warick van der Lingen, 26, particularly enjoys learning about the science of food hopes to become a community dietician and educate people more about nutrition. “It is interesting to learn about different ingredients and how their importance in each diet.”
Although Michelle Galloway, 26, already holds a degree in Human Movement Sciences from the NMMU, she decided to pursue her interest in dietetics last year, saying: “I have always had an interest in nutrition and hope to merge my previous qualification with dietetics because I intend to be a sports nutritionist.” – Balisa Ntloko