What is the Nordic diet and how can it help you lose weight?

The "unique fat composition" of the Nordic diet may contribute to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, shows a new study from Copenhagen.

 Ketogenic diets are high in fat from foods such as avocado. (photo credit: MAXPIXEL)
Ketogenic diets are high in fat from foods such as avocado.
(photo credit: MAXPIXEL)

Everyone is already familiar with the Mediterranean diet, but have you heard of the Nordic diet?

A team of researchers found that this diet can lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, whether a person loses weight or not. 

What is the Nordic diet?

The Nordic diet, created in 2004, consists of foods originating in Nordic countries, such as whole grain rye, oats, fish, Nordic berries, root vegetables and grapeseed oil (canola).

Benefits even without weight loss

The Nordic diet helps the environment, as it supports locally produced and sustainable foods, and is really healthy. Previous observations showed that those who adhere to this diet have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, researchers noted in their article published in Clinical Nutrition.

So far, the benefits of the Nordic diet have been largely linked to its positive effects after weight loss, but in the new study researchers found that the benefits of the diet may occur even without weight loss.

For the study, 200 overweight participants with metabolic syndrome characteristics followed a healthy Nordic diet (HND) or normal diet (control diet) for 18 to 24 weeks while maintaining their weight stability. The researchers then examined participants' blood and urine samples.

Food is seen on a table at a restaurant at the port of El Masnou, near Barcelona May 16, 2008. The Spanish government is leading a bid to persuade UNESCO to put the Mediterranean diet on the world heritage list. (credit: REUTERS)Food is seen on a table at a restaurant at the port of El Masnou, near Barcelona May 16, 2008. The Spanish government is leading a bid to persuade UNESCO to put the Mediterranean diet on the world heritage list. (credit: REUTERS)

"The group that was on the Nordic diet for six months became significantly healthier, with lower cholesterol levels, lower overall levels of saturated and unsaturated fat in the blood and better regulation of glucose, compared to the control group," said study authors from the University of Copenhagen.

"We maintained the group's weight stability in the Nordic diet, meaning we asked them to eat more if they lost weight. Even without weight loss, we could see an improvement in their health," they added.

A "unique fat composition"

It is possible that the "unique fat composition" in the Nordic diet may be behind the health benefits.

In general, the fat composition in the Nordic diet comes from foods like flaxseed and fish. These fats are rich in omega 3 and omega 6 unsaturated fats, the researchers noted.

However, it is still unclear how exactly the change in fat composition improves blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

It’s important to note that researchers don’t rule out the importance of weight loss in case of being overweight.

"This study simply shows that not only weight loss is what leads to the benefits of this diet, but also the unique composition of fats plays an important role," the researchers noted.