Nutrition Therapy

What is Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT)?

Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) is a holistic and therapeutic method for treating medical conditions and correlating symptoms.  This method is achieved by the use of customized diets/meal plans formulated and overseen by a Registered Dietitian.  Devised protocols are centered upon a patient’s physical examination, dietary, medical, and psychosocial history.  Medical Nutrition Therapy is established on the idea that several medical conditions progress or are made worse by an inadequate diet or insufficient nutrient intake.

This form of therapy also includes creating goals for the patient’s treatment and developing a focused nutrition prescription that entails patient education along with self-management training.  Initial nutrition therapy assessment sessions may occur over a period of 60-75 minutes.  Follow-up sessions with the eating disorder specialist may occur weekly or biweekly and last between 20-45 minutes, depending on a patient’s circumstances and needs.

Medical Nutrition Therapy is utilized in a wide variety of treatment settings, including long-term care such as residential eating disorder treatment centers, home health care, outpatient care, as well as acute care services.  Comprehensive medical nutrition therapy includes an inclusive review of a patient’s medical history along with a dietary assessment with laboratory evaluations and anthropometric measures.

Components of Medical Nutrition Therapy

The varying components of Medical Nutrition Therapy are as follows:

  • Intake assessment:  A crucial component of MNT includes an assessment of the patient’s present and past dietary history and may include food records, dietary recalls, diet histories, food frequency questionnaires, and biochemical indices.  The initial evaluation may also include psychosocial data, sociological data, and activity level.
  • Dietary Modification:  This aspect of MNT includes the implementation of specialized diets for specific conditions and diseases.  This may include supplemental nutrition, parenteral nutrition, and enteral nutrition for patients who cannot eat normally or have difficulty digesting food.
  • Patient education:  This essential component of MNT is imperative to the success of the implementation of any nutritional protocol.  Patient education in MNT may include meal planning and methods of preparation and nutrition counseling to effective patient involvement.  Registered Dietitians will also provide patients with nutrition education associated with any specific illness or disease for which they are seeking treatment through MNT.
  • Aftercare:  Recommended dietary guidance offered by the Registered Dietitian is typically evaluated periodically to monitor the effectiveness of the dietary modification.

Uses of Medical Nutrition Therapy

Registered Dietitians provide Medical Nutrition Therapy for several diseases and conditions with the intent of improving overall health and quality of life.  In the case of eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, Medical Nutrition Therapy is an essential constituent of the treatment team for a man or woman who may be suffering.  Although eating disorders are categorized as a psychiatric diagnosis, there are several nutritional difficulties that require the expertise of a Registered Dietitian.  The goal of MNT in the eating disorder treatment is to stabilize complicated medical conditions, normalize food intake, establish healthier and normal eating behaviors, and promote the founding for an improved relationship with food.  Additionally, a Registered Dietitian would utilize MNT to provide nutrition education, implement structured meal plans, and give direction for intuitive eating or non-diet approach methods.

Medical Nutrition Therapy can also be effective in the treatment of Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, Gastrointestinal Disorders, Nutrition Support, Pulmonary Disease, Renal Disease, and in various Cancers.

Last Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 25, 2012

Page last updated: June 12, 2012
Published on, Eating Disorders Resource