Nordic Diet Provides Health Benefits To People Even Without Weight Loss: Study

Adopting the Nordic diet has various health benefits. A team of researchers has found that it can lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels irrespective of whether the individual loses weight or not.

The Nordic diet, which was created in 2004, consists of foods that are locally sourced in Nordic countries. Such foods include whole grain rye, oats, fish, Nordic berries, root vegetables and rapeseed oil.

It is not only an environmentally beneficial diet as it supports foods that are locally and sustainably produced, but also quite healthy. Previous observations have found that those who follow the diet's recommendations have a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes, researchers noted in their paper published in Clinical Nutrition.

However, the Nordic diet's benefits have largely been linked to its positive effects after weight loss, the University of Copenhagen noted in a news release. But in the new study, researchers found that the benefits of the diet may actually occur even without the weight loss.

For the study, 200 overweight participants with features of metabolic syndrome were advised to follow either the healthy Nordic diet (HND) or their habitual diet (control diet) for 18 to 24 weeks while maintaining their weight stable. The researchers then examined the participants' blood and urine samples.

"The group that had been on the Nordic diet for six months 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," Lars Ove Dragsted, one of the study authors from the University of Copenhagen, explained in the university news release. "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."

It's possible that the "unique composition of fats" in the Nordic diet may be behind the health benefits. In general, the fat composition in the Nordic diet comes from foods such as flaxseed, fish and other items.

The fat composition of the Nordic diet is high in omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated fats, Dragsted noted. However, it remains unclear how exactly the change in fat composition improves blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

The result of the study doesn't mean that the researchers are dismissing the importance of weight loss.

"This study simply shows that it is not only weight loss that leads to the benefits of this die," Dragsted said. "The unique composition of fats plays an important role as well."

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