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Jobs: EAT, DRINK AND STILL BE HEALTHY.

Byline: PAUL MALLEY

YOU are what you eat, so the saying goes.

But the average body is usually stuffed with an unhealthy mixture of booze, red meat and fried foods.

Too much of the wrong sort of food, coupled with the ever-growing couch potato culture, is causing great concern for health bosses.

Recent reports show that a million under-16s are overweight in the UK, with around 10 per cent of four year-olds now classed as obese.

One of the people tasked with trying to hammer home the message that we cannot survive on a diet of burgers, chips and beer is Susan Price.

Susan, 29, is chief dietician at the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust.

'Dieticians work with people to promote good health,' she says. 'Prevention of illness, treatment of problems and maintenance of the human body are the main goals.

'The main problem in this country and the western world is heart disease, which can be combated through a proper diet.

'For a healthy diet, people should eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, have plenty of fibre, not too much salt, fat or sugar and only drink alcohol in moderation.'

Far from trying to be a killjoy, Susan says dieticians want to help people to enjoy their food.

'We all have to eat and it is important you enjoy your food,' she explains. 'But everything has to be done in moderation and that means not eating fried foods for every meal every day.'

While work with overweight and obese people is a frequent part of a dietician's job, Susan's role is much more wide-ranging. Based at Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, she heads a department of 23 dieticians.

'We see a lot of people who need advice on weight management,' she says. 'But we also work with a variety of people, including the pregnant and elderly, with regards to the prevention and treatment of disease.

'The majority of my job actually involves work with the intensive care unit. We work with patients who may have been in a road crash and who can't eat or drink by themselves and have to be fed through a tube.'

There are 5,000 state registered dieticians in the UK. Of these between 2,500 to 3,000 are employed by the NHS. The starting wage for a dietician working in the NHS is around pounds 17,500.

As well as in the NHS, dieticians are employed at places such as private practices, football clubs and major food companies.

'There are two main routes to become a state registered dietician,' says Susan. 'If you have two A-levels, one of which must be chemistry, you can apply for a place on a four-year undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics. In the Midlands, Coventry University runs these courses.

'Another option would be to do a three-year science degree followed by a two-year postgraduate course in nutrition and dietetics.'

Susan, originally from north Wales, says she always wanted to be a dietician.

'I knew I wanted to work with people. In this job, I meet someone new every single day and am faced with a different challenge.'

The British Dietetic Association website is www.bda.uk.com

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PROMOTING GOOD HEALTH... dietician Susan Price helps people enjoy their food
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 12, 2002
Words:546
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