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China"s first group of registered dietitians gained their professional certifications on Monday, as experts called for even more to meet demand and help guide people"s daily diet for a healthier life.
Nearly 1,500 people took the first national exam for dietitians in July, and about 500 passed, according to Yang Yuexin, director of the China Nutrition Society.
This year"s testing centers were in Beijing and Shanghai, and in Guangdong, Jilin and Sichuan provinces. An estimated 10,000 people are expected take the exam in the next three years.
However, experts say the number of dietitians in China is far below what"s needed.
Wang Longde, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and former vice-minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said China needs up to 4 million dietitians to meet the need.
According to Wang, China now has about 4,000 professionals specializing in dietary guidance - mainly college graduates majoring in nutriology, the study of foods and their uses in diet and therapy.
He said the exam will allow more people with extensive expertise, though not majoring in nutriology, to certify as dietitians and contribute their knowledge to the health of society.
"In the past three decades, changing lifestyles and increasing incomes have resulted in more fat and sugar intake and a deficiency of vegetable and fruit intake," Wang said. "Such unhealthy diets will lead to chronic diseases."
Deaths from chronic diseases accounted for 87 percent of the country"s total deaths last year, according to the commission. More than half of the deaths from chronic diseases were related to cardiovascular disease.
Compared with a combination of genetic and environmental influences, lifestyle is responsible for about 60 percent of a person"s health condition, Wang said. Apart from exercise, he said, diet is the crucial element.
The commission has made plans to carry out the National Nutrition Plan (2017-30). The plan sets targets for improving nutrition by 2020 and by 2030.
The goals include reducing the average daily intake of salt by 20 percent, and strengthening health checks for an overweight and food-obsessed population.
Yang said certificates will soon be issued to nutrition technicians, people for whom it"s not necessary to have a master"s degree but who have been trained professionally and are able to provide diet guidance in residential communities.
Fan Zhihong, an expert on nutrition and food safety at China Agricultural University, suggested that dietitians should also play an important role in schools and kindergartens where students are provided with meals from canteens.
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