Nordic diet lowers cholesterol and blood sugar, study finds

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New research has found that a Nordic diet can lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, even if an individual does not lose weight.

The study was published in the journal Clinical Nutrition and conducted in collaboration by researchers from Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland. 

The diet, which consists of berries, vegetables, fish, whole grains, dairy products, and rapeseed oil, has been recognized for preventing obesity, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Researchers took blood and urine samples from 200 people over the age of 50, all with an elevated body mass index (BMI) and an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Participants were divided into two groups - one group was provided foods according to Nordic dietary recommendations and the control group remained on their habitual diet. After six months of monitoring, researchers assessed the results.

“The group on the Nordic diet 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,” said Lars Ove Dragsted, PhD, researcher on the study and head of section at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports in a statement. “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.

Researchers point to the composition of fats in the Nordic diet as a possible explanation for the significant health benefits. Those who benefited the most from the dietary change in the study had different fat-soluble substances than the control group.

“We can only speculate as to why a change in fat composition benefits our health so greatly. 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,” said Ove Dragsted.