Blogs-13 Study Reveals New Benefits of Nordic Diet
Posted by Minrui Zou on
The Mediterranean diet is well known for its many benefits to sustaining good health, and it may be joined by the Nordic diet. According to new research while the health benefits attributed to a Nordic diet by previous studies primarily focused on weight loss, researchers in a new study found clear evidence that a Nordic diet can lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels even without weight loss. Further, they point to the composition of dietary fats as a possible explanation for the diet's positive effects.
Berries, veggies, fish, whole grains and canola oil (derived from rapeseed) are the main ingredients of the Nordic diet concept that, for 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., according to the new analysis, which was conducted by University of Copenhagen researchers.
"It's surprising because most people believe that positive effects on blood sugar and cholesterol are solely due to weight loss. Here, we have found this not to be the case. Other mechanisms are also at play," explained co-author Lars Ove Dragsted, head of section at the University of Copenhagen's Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports.
Together with researchers from Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland, Dragsted examined blood and urine samples from 200 people over the age of 50, all with elevated BMI and increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The participants were divided into two groups -- one provided foods according to Nordic dietary recommendations and a control group on their habitual diet for six months.
Dragsted observed, "The group that had been on the Nordic diet for six months became significantly healthier, with lower cholesterol levels, lower overall levels of both saturated and unsaturated fat in the blood, and better regulation of glucose, compared to the control group. We kept the group on the Nordic diet weight stable, meaning that we asked them to eat more if they lost weight. Even without weight loss, we could see an improvement in their health.”
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 blood of participants, we could see that those who benefited most from the dietary change had different fat-soluble substances than the control group. These are substances that appear to be linked to unsaturated fatty acids from oils in the Nordic diet. This is a sign that Nordic dietary fats probably play the most significant role for the health effects seen here, which I hadn't expected," commented Dragsted.
Fats in the Nordic diet come from fish, flaxseeds, sunflower and rapeseed (Canola), among other things. "We can confirm that the absence of highly processed food and less saturated fats from animals have a very positive effect on us. So, the fat composition in the Nordic diet, which is higher in omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated fats, is probably a considerable part of the explanation for the health effects we find from the Nordic diet, even when the weight of participants remains constant," concludes Lars Ove Dragsted.
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 made from rapeseed, sunflower or flaxseed. Finally, low-fat dairy products are also recommended, as well as a significantly smaller proportion of meat than currently consumed.
The diet contributes to 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 cholesterol levels, as well as cardiovascular disease in general.
The Nordic Nutrition Recommendations were adopted by dietary experts in 2012 and will be updated this year.
At Herbsea, we believe in diets that promote heavier intake of healthy fats because “fat” is not always a bad word. The foods mentioned above are filling and also provide excellent amounts of dietary fiber. The good news, we believe, is that you don’t have to be married to either the Mediterranean or Nordic diets, enjoy switching, which will keep your palate interested and help you to maintain your good dietary habits.
Gurdeniz G, et al. “Analysis of the SYSDIET Healthy Nordic Diet randomized trial based on metabolic profiling reveal beneficial effects on glucose metabolism and blood lipids.” Clinical Nutrition, 2022; 41 (2): 441 DOI: 10.1016/j.clnu.2021.12.031