New research examines the health benefits of the so-called Nordic diet. Researchers examined the health effects of a healthy Nordic diet (HND) using metabolic analysis. They found that this diet had a positive effect on glucose metabolism, cholesterol levels and cardiometabolic risk. They conclude that metabolic analysis is a powerful tool to assess the results of a diet.
The HND diet consists of berries, fish, root vegetables and canola oil. It is known for its beneficial effects on various aspects of health, including weight loss, blood pressure, inflammation, and blood lipid profiles. Studies also show that HND reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and death.
Nutrition research often faces challenges related to the lack of objective measurements, as studies typically rely on subjective instruments such as food consumption questionnaires. Using biomarkers may allow researchers to more accurately measure the effects of diet on health.
In the current study, Scandinavian researchers assessed the metabolic effects of HND on glucose metabolism, blood lipid profiles, and inflammatory markers using data from a 2013 randomized controlled trial.
By examining metabolites in the participants’ blood and urine, they found an association between stricter adherence to the diet and greater benefits in mild inflammation and lipid profiles and indicators of body metabolism. The original analysis compared participants in the intervention group to those in the control group. This new analysis uses metabolites found in blood plasma and urine to group individuals with high metabolite levels from the intervention diet or the control diet. The study is published in Clinical Nutrition.
The 2013 study recruited 200 participants with overweight and metabolic syndrome. The average age of the participants was 55 years. After an initial 4-week period in which the participants ate their usual diet, the researchers randomly assigned them to either the HND diet or a control diet, defined as the average nutrient intake across the Nordic countries.
The researchers then asked participants in the HND group to increase their intake of whole grains, such as rye and barley, as well as berries, fruits and vegetables. Those in the control group were instructed to eat low-fiber wheat products, including refined white bread and pasta, and not to moderate their intake of vegetables and fruits.
Both diets contained similar amounts of calories to keep the participants’ weight stable throughout the study. The researchers followed the participants for 18 or 24 weeks and asked them to provide blood and urine samples at the beginning and end of the intervention and at week 12.
For the current Metabolic Profiling study, the researchers analyzed data from 98 participants from the HND group and 71 participants from the control group. They found that those who adhered to HND the most had different fat-soluble metabolites in their blood than those who didn’t. Researchers link these metabolites to better glucose regulation, better cholesterol profile, and reduced cardiometabolic risk.
These results build on early results from 2013, which suggested that while DNH has beneficial effects on lipid profiles and inflammation, it does not affect glycemic metabolism. Participants with higher levels of metabolites from the Nordic diet had lower triglyceride levels than those with lower levels of metabolites, although neither participant lost weight during the study. Assuming that greater consumption of the Nordic diet leads to higher levels of metabolites in the blood, this means that a higher quality diet can improve certain health parameters, even without weight loss.
To explain their findings, the researchers claim that fish, flaxseed, sunflower, and canola, all HND staples, contain healthy fats. Saturated fats of animal origin are very beneficial to health. The fat composition of the Nordic diet, which contains more omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated fats, is likely responsible for much of the health effects of the Nordic diet, even when participants’ weight remains constant.
Consuming berries, vegetables, fish, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and canola oil means consuming fewer saturated fats, more unsaturated fats, more fiber, and less sodium. All of this has a positive impact on lipids, glucose, blood pressure and inflammation.
The authors of the present study conclude that metabolite assessment is an effective way to evaluate the health benefits of different diets. However, they point out that their results are subject to certain limitations. For example, your analysis may have missed certain metabolites that other profiling techniques might have found. They also point out that their sample size was relatively small.
The analysis of the randomized study SYSDIET Healthy Nordic Diet based on metabolic profiles shows positive effects on glucose metabolism and blood lipids
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