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'Nordic Diet' May Be Healthy Choice Even If You Don't Lose Weight

CC BY 2.0 / Flickr / @insatiablemunch / Nordic food
Nordic food - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.03.2022
The so-called "Nordic diet" is somewhat similar to the Mediterranean diet: both consist generally of plant-based foods. The Nordic variant, however, relies more on canola oil instead of the olive oil.
The Nordic diet is good for your health because it helps reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels, even if you don't lose weight, according to new study by the University of Copenhagen.

"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 the case. Other mechanisms are also at play", Lars Ove Dragsted, a researcher and head of section at the University of Copenhagen's Department of Nutrition, Exercise, and Sports, explained.

In order to find out what those mechanisms are, a scientific team of Nordic researchers from Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland examined blood and urine samples from 200 people over the age of 50. All of these people had an elevated body mass index and increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
They were divided into two groups, with the first eating according to their traditional habits, and the second following the Nordic diet food recommendations. Six months later, the latter turned out to be "significantly healthier", demonstrating lower overall levels of both saturated and unsaturated fat in the blood, and better regulation of glucose.

"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", Dragsted noted.

The Nordic diet, as well as another popular weight loss regimen, the Mediterranean diet, is based on seasonal and typical local foods - mostly plants, with a moderate amount of fish and eggs and a limit on processed foods and sweets. The main difference between the two diets is the source of fats: while the Nordic diet opts for canola oil, the Mediterranean diet recommends olive oil.
Fats, in contrast to some beliefs, are actually good for you. This is another thing that the scientific team from the University of Copenhagen found: it may be the unique composition of fats that makes the Nordic diet so beneficial for one's health.

"By analysing 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", Dragsted explained.

In the Nordic diet, fats primarily come from fish, flaxseeds, sunflowers, and rapeseed. But at present, scientists can only speculate as to what makes the Nordic diet's fats composition successful.
"However, 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", Dragsted concluded.
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