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31-10-2010 | Cardiometabolic | Article

Nordic diet decreases CVD risk factors


Free abstract

MedWire News: A healthy Nordic diet could be used for the treatment of cardiovascular disease (CVD), obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance, and hypercholesterolemia, researchers suggest.

Ulf Riserus (Uppsala University, Sweden), and colleagues say the diet "improves blood lipid profile and insulin sensitivity, and lowers blood pressure at clinically relevant levels in hypercholesterolemic subjects."

The Nordic diet is rich in high-fiber plant foods, fruits, berries, vegetables, whole grains, rapeseed oil, nuts, fish, and low-fat milk products, but low in salt, added sugars, and saturated fats.

In a randomized controlled trial, the researchers assigned 88 mildly hypercholesterolemic men and women (aged 25-65 years) to a Nordic diet or a control diet (their usual Western diet) for 6 weeks. Clinical assessments were made at baseline and after 6 weeks of follow-up.

Participants in the Nordic diet group were supplied with prepared meal boxes, and both groups were advised to eat ad libitum and maintain their usual lifestyle habits.

Overall, 86 of the participants completed the study.

Average body weight in the Nordic diet group decreased by 3kg (4.0%), after 6 weeks, whereas the control group showed an increase of 0.03kg (0.04%).

The Nordic diet significantly reduced plasma cholesterol (16%), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (21%), and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (5%), compared with controls, and ratios of apolipoprotein (apo)B to apoA1, and LDL to HDL cholesterol were also reduced (1 and 14%, respectively).

These results remained significant after adjustments for weight change.

There was a significant decrease in insulin concentrations and systolic blood pressure in the intervention group compared with controls (9 and 5%, respectively). However, these differences did not remain significant after adjustments for weight loss.

Reduction in diastolic blood pressure in the Nordic diet group was not statistically significant.

Finally, some of the subjects (n=11) from the Nordic diet group were asked to extend their adherence for an additional 4 weeks. In this subgroup the risk factors continued to decrease, and the researchers say that this shows a clear continuation of the favorable effects.

Riserus and team conclude in the Journal of Internal Medicine that an ad libitum Nordic diet improves cardiovascular risk factors in hypercholesterolemic subjects, and add that it is surprisingly effective in lowering body weight.

They suggest: "A diet based on foods originating from Nordic countries may be an option for treating hypercholesterolemia, as well as lowering blood pressure and insulin resistance."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Nikki Withers