12 January - 20 June 2016

Nordic diet can help beat inflammation

15 January 2015

The New Nordic Diet is a dietary concept based on healthy, sustainable and locally sourced foods. The new dietary guidelines are inspired by the likes of the Mediterranean diet, with a focus on intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fresh herbs, wild plants and roots, meats from livestock and game, fish, shellfish and seaweed. The idea came about when it was found that although low fat, low carbohydrate and high protein diets were found to be beneficial for weight management, foods needed to be thought of as a whole and not just a macronutrient. 

A Danish dietary-intervention study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition was carried out over 26 weeks on a total of 220 participants. These were men and women aged 18-65 with a waist circumference of >80cm for women and >94cm for men, and an existing metabolic syndrome such as high cholesterol, hypertension or impaired fasting glucose. Participants were allocated either the New Nordic Diet (NND) or the average Danish diet (ADD), which reflected foods commonly eaten as defined by the latest survey of dietary habits in Denmark, in a 3:2 ratio. 

Examinations of body weight, waist to hip circumference, body fat composition and blood pressure were collected at 0, 12 and 26 weeks. Blood samples and urine samples were also taken more frequently to examine glucose tolerance. The participants in both groups were encouraged to continue with their normal exercise routines and met with a dietician throughout the intervention to discuss portion sizes, eating behaviour and to receive recipes and cookery lessons. 

Weight loss occurred in both groups, although the loss was much greater, with an average of -3.22kg more in the NND group (total lost 4.74kg), compared to the ADD control group, who lost an average of 1.5kg. Although the study was not intended to prove weight loss, the primary outcome of the intervention was a change in body weight in those that completed the 26 weeks. The greater weight loss in the NND group was accompanied by reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, reducing waist and hip circumferences and reducing fat mass. Fasting glucose levels also decreased in the NND group, therefore reducing diabetic and cardiovascular disease risk factors. 

Although the major findings of the study have weight loss management and health improvement implications for following the concept of the New Nordic Diet, there is also the broader focus from applications such as dietetic counselling, which is most likely to explain the weight loss achieved by the control group. It is also likely that the decrease in blood pressure in the NND group was mainly achieved by the weight loss, teamed with an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and decreased intake of sodium. [The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition]

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