it’s not just weight loss that brings health benefits

Nordic diet, traditional Danish sandwichesBenefits very significant to the heart and a significant improvement in the metabolic profile and blood lipids, these are the advantages brought about by the so-called Nordic Diet, codified in 2012 by a panel of experts. This type of diet includes the typical vegetables of the northern European area, such as turnips, peas, beans, cabbage, onions and root vegetables, but also pears, plums, apples and berries, to which specific fats are added, such as rapeseed, linseed and sunflower oils and those contained in nuts, fish and molluscs and, again, whole grains, very little meat, low-fat cheeses and, in general, non-food industrial.

The demonstration of the effectiveness of this diet comes from a study published in Clinical Nutrition and carried out by an international team of researchers working in several northern European countries (Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark). The study, summarized in an article published on the website of the University of Copenhagen, wanted to verify the effects of this type of diet beyond the consequences on weight. To this end, the researchers studied a sample of 200 people over 50 with a high body mass index and a high risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The subjects were divided into two groups: one followed the Nordic diet and the other, the control, maintained the usual diet. For six months, the people involved in the study were subjected to periodic blood and urine checks.

Nordic diet, fish, onions, black bread
The benefits of the Nordic diet could derive in particular from the fatty acids contained in fish and the low amount of ultra-processed foods

To ward off the risk that the benefits were associated with weight reduction the researchers took a trick: when participants lost weight, they asked them to increase calories in a way but maintain a stable body mass index, just to have a clear view of the effect alone metabolic. This effect did not take long to manifest itself: in the subjects who followed the Nordic Diet there was in fact a marked improvement in cholesterol and other fats in the blood and a better regulation of sugar levels.

Second the authors, this markedly beneficial effect is caused by a mix of substances and, in particular, by the unsaturated fatty acids deriving from the selected fish and vegetable oils, as well as by the antioxidants of the berries and the fibers of the cereals, which provide also minerals and vitamins. The benefits are also due to the low quantity of ultra-processed foods, since in the Nordic Diet you must eat as much simple and home-cooked foods as possible, starting from what is produced locally. From this point of view, it is also a particularly sustainable regime, because it is based on raw materials at or near zero km. The authors concluded that the importance of weight loss, often associated with this type of diet, especially in people at risk, remains confirmed, but the benefits are very significant even when this does not occur.

© Reserved reproduction; Photo: Depositphotos, AdobeStock

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Roberto La Pira

science journalist

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