Berries, vegetables, fish, whole grains and canola oil. These are the main ingredients of the Nordic diet concept which over the past decade have been recognized as extremely healthy, tasty and sustainable. The diet can prevent obesity and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Until now, research on the Nordic diet has mainly been linked to the positive effect of the diet on health after weight loss. But a new analysis by researchers at the University of Copenhagen and others clearly shows that a Nordic diet has health benefits whether you lose weight or not.
“This is surprising because most people believe that the positive effects on blood sugar and cholesterol are only due to weight loss. Here we found that this was not the case. Other mechanisms are also at stake”, explains Lars Ove Dragsted, researcher. and Section Head in the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen.
Together with researchers from Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland, Dragsted examined blood and urine samples from 200 people over the age of 50, all of whom had high BMIs and increased risk of diabetes and of cardiovascular diseases. Participants were divided into two groups – one provided food according to Nordic dietary guidelines and a control group on their usual diet. After six months of monitoring, the result was final.
“The group that had followed the Nordic diet for six months became significantly healthier, with lower cholesterol levels, overall levels of saturated and unsaturated fats in the blood, and better glucose regulation, compared to the control group. “We kept the group on the Nordic diet weight stable, meaning we asked them to eat more if they were losing weight. Even without weight loss, we could see an improvement in their health,” says Lars Oh Dragsted.
Fat makes us healthy
Instead of weight loss alone, the researchers point to the unique composition of fats in a Nordic diet as a possible explanation for the significant health benefits.
“By analyzing the participants’ blood, we could see that those who benefited the most from the dietary change had different fat-soluble substances than the control group. These are substances that appear to be related to the unsaturated fatty acids in the oils in the diet. This is a sign that Nordic dietary fat is probably playing the biggest role in the health effects seen here, which I didn’t expect,” says Lars Ove Dragsted.
Fats in the Nordic diet come from, among other things, fish, flaxseed, sunflower and rapeseed (canola). Overall, they are a very beneficial mix for the body, although researchers have not yet explained exactly why these fats seem to lower both blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
“We can only speculate why a change in fat composition benefits our health so much. However, we can confirm that the absence of highly processed foods and less saturated fat from animal sources has an very positive about us.So the fat composition of the Nordic diet, which is higher in omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated fatty acids, is probably a considerable part of the explanation for the health effects we find of the diet. Nordic, even when the weight of the participants remains constant”, concludes Lars Ove Dragsted.
Facts about Nordic nutritional recommendations
The Nordic nutritional recommendations were adopted by dietary experts in 2012 and will be updated this year.
The diet is adapted to the Nordic countries: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Greenland, Faroe Islands and Iceland. The diet is based on locally produced and therefore sustainable ingredients.
Recommended foods include vegetables such as peas, beans, cabbage, onions, and root vegetables, as well as fruits, including apples, pears, plums, and berries. Also recommended are nuts, seeds, whole grains, fish and shellfish, as well as vegetable oils based on rapeseed, sunflower or flax. Finally, low-fat dairy products are also recommended, as well as a significantly lower proportion of meat than that currently consumed.
The diet contributes important fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and plant materials that have a positive effect on our health and, among other things, reduce the risk of blood clots, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and low blood pressure. cholesterol, as well as cardiovascular diseases in general.
Weight loss compared to a Nordic diet
The researchers point out that weight loss, which often results from a Nordic diet, remains very important to the overall health benefits of the diet.
“This study simply shows that it is not only weight loss which leads to the benefits of this diet. The unique fat composition also plays an important role,” says Lars Ove Dragsted.