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The nutrition assessment involves both subjective and objective measures, like weight.
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Nutrition assessments, which involve an evaluation of objective and subjective data, are used to determine an individual's nutritional status or growth patterns. Dietitians apply the collected data from the nutrition assessment to plan a nutritional intervention, which involves helping an individual maintain or reach a desired health status. Assessing an individual's nutritional status involves anthropometrics, biochemical data, clinical data and dietary data.
Anthropometrics are objective measurements that help determine amount of muscle and percentage of body fat. These measurements can be used to assess weight loss or gain in an individual or to compare two separate individuals. They can also be used to compare growth rates in children. Anthropometrics may include height, weight, body mass index, skin fold measurements and body frame size. During a nutrition assessment, a dietitian takes anthropometric measurements and then compares them to standard values to make an educated assessment about growth or weight.
Dietitians can assess nutritional status through laboratory testing or biochemical data. Biochemical data may be obtained through blood, urine, stool, hair and nail samples, although the Abbott Nutrition Health Institute notes that the latter two are rarely used in a nutritional setting. Hydration level, underlying medical conditions and metabolic processes, like extreme stress, can affect the outcome of biochemical data, so it is important to consider laboratory results as part of a whole.
Clinical data means obtaining an individual's medical history, which includes any diseases or illness, prior diagnostic procedures or current treatments and medications. Some diseases or treatment procedures may increase specific nutrient needs or contribute to malabsorption, which increases the risk of developing a nutritional deficiency. It is also important to determine whether an individual is taking any vitamins, minerals or herbal supplements, which can affect nutritional status.
The dietary data component of the nutrition assessment involves documenting an individual's dietary intake. There are several ways to obtain dietary data. The dietitian may simply ask the individual what he or she ate in the entire 24 hours prior to the nutrition assessment. Alternatively, the dietitian may request that the individual keep a food diary -- a record of every food or drink consumed -- for a specified period of time, usually three days to a week. The dietary data component may also involve a food frequency questionnaire, which is a survey used to obtain information about how often a specific food or a specific food group is consumed. During the dietary component of the nutrition assessment, the dietitian will also obtain information about any known allergies, food intolerances and food avoidances.