The Nordic Diet
There’s a new kid in town, or rather, there’s a new diet in town, and it might give the Mediterranean diet a run for its money. The Mediterranean diet has long been the darling of nutrition experts as a proven way to prevent chronic diseases. Heavy on olive oil, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and fish, the diet most recently has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and dying compared with a typical low-fat diet. However, in the Nordic regions like Denmark and Sweden, the Med diet may be hard.
Olive oil is hard to find. While obesity rates in Nordic countries are much lower than in the US, there are still plenty of people at risk of diabetes and other chronic diseases who could use some dietary help. A group of nutrition researchers in Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway set out to design a healthy “Nordic” diet around locally produced food items, like herring, canola oil, and blueberry. The study was randomized and lasted 18 to 24 weeks in 2009 and 2010, with 96 people in the healthy diet group and 70 in the control group.
The healthy Nordic diet group ate mostly berries like currants, bilberries and strawberries, canola oil, whole grains, root vegetables and three fish meals such as salmon and mackerel per week, and avoided sugar. The rest of the time, they could eat vegetarian, poultry or game, but no red meat. The researchers provided them with some of the key ingredients for their meals. The control group, on the other hand, ate butter instead of canola, fewer berries and vegetables, and had no restrictions on red meat, white bread or sugar intake.
With the healthy Nordic diet, bad cholesterol/good cholesterol ratio improved significantly, as did one marker for inflammation. In the long run, the change in the inflammation marker could result in a 20 to 40 percent reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes for people on the healthy diet. While the new Nordic diet helps overweight people drop pounds, the diet places a special emphasis on seasonal and local foods. So will the new diet be competing with the Mediterranean diet in far-flung countries seeking to emulate svelte Europeans? Since it contains many local produced food items, it might not be easy to consume by people outside Nordic countries.