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Healthy Nordic Dietary Recommendations Reduce Cardiometabolic Risk Factors

Healthy Nordic Dietary Recommendations Reduce Cardiometabolic Risk Factors

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  • Present day processed food is high in refined sugar, saturated fats and salt, and low in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
  • Current study shows that following a diet low in sugars with more of unsaturated fats and protein markedly improves general as well as heart health.
  • It is therefore important to follow dietary trends closely to determine related health risks.

Consuming a diet high in minerals, fruits and vegetables and low in sugars and trans-fats markedly reduces adverse cardiometabolic events, according to the The Västerbotten Intervention Programme (VIP), an ongoing, population-based prospective study in Northern Sweden.

The study may be echoing what most of us may already know, but it is a large, longitudinal 10 year population based scientific study with enough evidence to substantiate the claims.


Aim of the Study

The authors feel that dietary factors are more important in determining longterm state of one's cardiometabolic health than even body mass index (BMI), smoking and high blood pressure. It thus, becomes important to monitor closely the effects of dietary trends over a prolonged period in a population and determine its influence on the health of the population.

This is what the current study hoped to do in a large population based study in Northern Sweden called the Västerbotten Intervention Programme (VIP).

Methods of the Study

The VIP study from 1996-2014 involved nearly 16,000 persons from Northern Sweden who had 2 visits spaced 10 years apart within 1996 and 2014 to assess the effects of diet on them. In fact, since 1985, residents of Västerbotten County in northern Sweden with a total population about 255,000  have been invited to their local health center to undergo a medical examination when they turned 40, 50 and 60 years, with some centers also including the 30 year olds until 1996. Between 48-67% of the inhabitants have participated in the VIP.

Based on the choice of diet, which could be favorable or unfavorable, two indexes namely the Healthy Diet score (higher scores represented healthy choices) and Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII) were calculated. A diet which reduced levels of inflammation with lower DII scores is considered healthier and more beneficial in general.

Observations and Findings of the Study

At the end of the study, the important findings included the following:
  • Interestingly, the youngest age group (40 years) reported the largest proportion of decreased calorie intake as well as the largest increase in dietary protein intake.
  • The youngest age group also reported the largest decrease in dietary carbohydrate intake.
  • Interestingly, the oldest age group reported the largest increase in dietary fat and saturated fat.
  • Overall Healthy Diet scores and Inflammatory Index scores did not vary though inter-group variations were observed.
  • Improved Healthy Diet scores were associated with lower cardiac risk factors such as serum cholesterol levels, BMI and systolic blood pressure but this association was not observed with improved DII scores.
  • Whole grain intake lowered cardiometabolic risk factors.
To sum up, a healthier diet based on Nordic dietary recommendations, veering towards low carbohydrate and trans-fats and high in protein unsaturated fats, whole grains fruits and vegetables markedly lowered the cardiometabolic risk profile and BMI at the second visit irrespective of the baseline values at the start of the study.

What is Cardiometabolic Risk?

Cardiometabolic risk determines the chances of one suffering from heart disease, diabetes or stroke.

Factors that increase cardiometabolic risk include smoking, high cholesterol, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, high blood pressure and a high BMI with a large waist circumference.

Addressing these issues, most of which are modifiable and lie in choices that we make, could go a long way in improving the general as well as cardiac health.


This has been a large-scale longitudinal study involving a huge population with minimal selection bias, and the results underline the importance of closely monitoring the effects of dietary habits in the population so that correctional steps can be taken sooner.

Though individual choices matter, it is very important for the administration to get involved and propagate the message about health risks involved in certain dietary choices and to clamp down heavily on the food industry if safety standards and precautions are not complied with.

References :
  1. Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2012: Integrating nutrition and physical activity - (http://norden.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A704251&dswid=6267)
  2. Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2012 - (http://norden.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:704251/FULLTEXT01.pdf)
  3. Cardiometabolic Risk: What is it and what can I do about it? - (https://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/psyckes_medicaid/brochures/cardio.html)
Source: Medindia

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