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Study questions Nordic diets heart health benefits

3 June 2015

A recent study by Weiderpass et al. at the Danish Cancer Society Research Centre published in the Journal of Internal Medicine has questioned the association between a healthy Nordic diet and a reduction in cardiovascular heart disease (CVD). Studies had previously indicated that a diet rich in rye bread, oatmeal, apples/pears, cabbages, root vegetables and fish/shellfish (the food groups defined by the healthy Nordic Food index (HNFI)) lead to a reduction in CVD. 

The authors conducted an analysis of data from the Swedish Women's Lifestyle and Health (WLH) cohort, which included 49 259 women aged 29 – 49 years at recruitment (1991–1992). The data was categorised into groups depending on the type of CVD and various models were applied to assess the impact of diet with defined variables. For example, model 2 included smoking status, current tobacco consumption, time since cessation of smoking (years), years of education (0–10, 11–13, >13), alcohol intake (g day−1) and processed meat intake (g day−1). It is worth noting that a potential limitation of this study is the long follow up time between dietary assessments.

The statistical evaluation of this data demonstrated a significant interaction term between smoking status and the HNFI. This equated to a 4% lower risk of CVD among former smokers. There was no association between any other potential effect modifiers (ie. BMI, alcohol intake and age at cohort entry) and overall, or specific types of CVD. The paper goes on to comment that even the reduced risk of CVD to former smokers may be connected to the adoption of a healthier lifestyle following smoking cessation as opposed to the HNFI.

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