Nordic diet could prevent the EU’s biggest killer, scientists say


New Danish research shows that the New Nordic Diet lowers the amount of unhealthy cholesterol, which is one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease and strokes.

According to two new research studies from Aarhus University, bad cholesterol and blood pressure can be lowered if people eat according to the New Nordic Diet, a spin on the classic Mediterranean diet. 

The new eating plan contains berries, Nordic vegetables, coarse bread and rapeseed oil, and puts an emphasis on locally grown organic foods.

"We wanted to be certain that the good results came directly from the diet. It would have been difficult to know where the good results stemmed from if the patients had also been losing weight," Kjeld Hermansen, clinical professor at the Institute for Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University Hospital, told the daily Berlingske.

Too much of the bad cholesterol, also known as LDL, can cause cardiovascular disease which is the number one cause of death globally. More people die annually from that condition than from any other cause, according to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO).

In addition to the health burden, cardiovascular problems also have a significant economic impact, estimated by the European Heart Network (EHN) and European Society of Cardiology at €196 billion in the EU for direct and indirect annual costs.

The condition spans from coronary heart conditions, to stroke, peripheral arterial or aortic diseases. They are the leading causes of disability in the Western world, accounting for 24% of all deaths globally.

In the Danish research project, one group followed the New Nordic diet, while another group had an average Danish diet. For the first group, their amount of bad cholesterol, which is linked to atherosclerosis, and blood pressure fell significantly.

According to the researchers, people who are obese, will benefit from the New Nordic diet as they are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes.

"The most important thing for these people is to get a better cholesterol level and a lower blood pressure. 50% of them with high blood pressure will eventually develop type-2 diabetes," Hermansen said.

While the overall amount of cholesterol did not drop for those who followed the New Nordic diet in the study, the level of bad cholesterol dropped dramatically.

As the research project only lasted 18-24, Hermansen added that more long-term studies are necessary in order to determine the importance of a healthy diet in the fight against bad cholesterol.

Approximately 4 million people in Europe and 1.5 million people in the EU die of cardiovascular disease each year, according to the European Heart Network (EHN). The main forms of heart disease are coronary heart disease and stroke.

To reduce the amounts of death from heart diseases, European Union countries agreed to tackle the underlying health determinants behind cardiovascular health in its 2014-2020 health programme.

A key element in fighting cardiovascular disease is to address the underlying health determinants, including bad cholesterol, tobacco use, obesity, diet and physical activity and high blood pressure.

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