Nordic diet aims to fight obesity

Obesity in Europe has been addressed in different ways by dieticians and doctors. Claus Meyer, the founder and co-owner of Restaurant magazine’s number one-rated restaurant in the world, and Arne Astrup, a leading obesity researcher from the University of Copenhagen, are now attempting to address the problem through their new approach to food, which they call the New Nordic Diet.

Capitalizing on Meyer’s culinary skills and Astrup’s scholarship on problems of obesity, the two have developed this diet that is now the highlight of Meyer’s restaurant. Using local food in home-cooked meals, this is how people in Denmark have embraced traditional Arctic cuisine. Restaurant Noma, run by head chef Rene Redzepi, has since won the best restaurant award in 2010 by restaurant magazine for bringing out traditional flavors as part of a healthful cuisine.

The reason for the wider prevalence of obesity, Astrup noted was due to drop-out patients. They often “tend to regain and relapse,” he said. He blamed that on the fact that losing weight was an act of deprivation and hardship for patients who would forgo delicious food.

Meyer and Astrup conducted a small study to analyze the case of these drop-outs. As part of their randomized trials, Astrup took one group to a New Nordic cooking class and another to a control no-class measure. His observation of classes and final results made him a believer.

The subjects in the cooking class “were having a lot of fun,” he said. He noted that the drop-out rate was only 4 per cent in the cooking group, but 25 per cent in the control group, observing that this could prevent them from going to their old eating habits.

Astrup is now conducting a multi-site school intervention to help combat childhood obesity in Denmark and around Europe.

Noting that Denmark “actually had a diet that was dominated by a very high fat diet,” Astrup said that’s the reason for prevalence of obesity among Danes. 

They took up another study, where the healthy Nordic diet will be given to more than 3,000 Danish students daily for three months. Meyer hopes that this will help reduce childhood obesity in Denmark, which affects many young Danes, including himself. 

He narrated how he was overweight as a child. Later he became concerned with losing weight that he developed a “borderline eating disorder” until he moved to France as a young adult. There, he discovered a new way to look at eating.

The two of them strongly hope that lessons from the New Nordic Diet can be used around the world to combat obesity. They also pointed out that healthy recipes can be simple — not a single dish in their book takes more than 30 minutes to prepare.

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