Here’s what to know about the Nordic diet.
You may have noticed there’s a new diet creating a lot of noise in the health and wellness scene.
It’s the Nordic diet, and some nutritionists think it may be one of the healthiest ways to eat.
The diet was constructed when health experts set out to find why, exactly, Northern Europe had lower obesity rates than the United States. The Nordic diet was developed based on the traditional cuisine found in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.
How does it stack up against the Mediterranean diet?
The Nordic diet is quite similar to the well-known Mediterranean diet. Both include plenty of freshwater fish, root veggies, fruit, and whole grains — such as oats and barley — and limit the consumption of red meat, dairy, sugars, and processed foods.
The main difference is in the oily fats. While the Mediterranean diet suggests olive oil, the Nordic diet opts for rapeseed oil, aka canola oil. Both oils promote a healthy heart by boosting good cholesterol (HDL) and trimming away bad cholesterol (LDL).
“Both are plant-based oils with high amounts of omega-3. Since canola oil has less saturated fat than olive oil, it is considered healthier, however, both have a different recommended use in the kitchen,” Dr. Nancy P. Rahnama, a bariatric physician based in Los Angeles, told Healthline.
For example, olive oil, which is higher in antioxidants, is more flavorful and is typically used for salads and toppings whereas canola oil can withstand more heat, so can be used when cooking and baking at higher temperatures.
The long list of health benefits
One of the main reasons dietitians have been so fond of the Nordic diet is because of all the research-backed health benefits it’s been linked to.
The World Health Organization (WHO) found that both the Mediterranean and Nordic diets reduce the risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Other studies have revealed that the Nordic diet can lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels, normalize cholesterol levels, and help people lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
Additionally, because the diet is quite similar to anti-inflammatory diets — which traditionally consist of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats — it’s been shown to reduce inflammation in fatty tissues and, consequently, obesity-related health risks.
It may even help women who are trying to get pregnant.
“This lifestyle falls in line with the recommendations I give my clients when [they’re] trying to conceive,” Lauren Manaker, a registered dietitian and owner of Nutrition Now Counseling, said. “A diet that is low in processed foods and refined carbohydrates, along with eating mostly plant-based and seafood-based proteins along with high consumption of fruits and vegetables, is correlated with increased chances of pregnancy.”
It’s good for planet Earth, too
Additionally, the Nordic diet is environmentally sustainable, as it focuses on the consumption of fresh, local ingredients. As a result, fewer greenhouse gases are emitted.
“Plant-based diets create less pollution because they use fewer natural resources than meat-heavy diets,” fitness expert Lauren Cadillac, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer, said. “We can also reduce energy consumption and food waste by eating locally-produced food.”
“A large reason I like this diet is that it takes the focus off of calories and puts it on quality food,” Cadillac added.
A well-balanced, affordable option
While the Mediterranean diet has been more heavily researched, growing interest in the Nordic diet has already found that the diet is just as healthy, if not more.
Not to mention, because the Nordic diet focuses on consuming what’s in season, it doesn’t break the bank. Seasonal produce tends to be a bit cheaper, as it’s more widely available.
So, if you’re looking to do some good for your body, the Nordic diet may be well worth a try. It’s packed with a ton of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals your body needs to survive and thrive.
- What causes alcohol addiction? Study investigates
Is a faulty signaling mechanism in the brain area that processes emotion the reason that only a minority of those who drink alcohol become addicted to it?
Researchers in Sweden and the United States suggest that this might be the case after studying alcohol addiction in rats.
They found that the rats that became addicted had an impaired brain mechanism similar to that seen in postmortem brain tissue from humans who were addicted to alcohol.
The faulty mechanism is a failure to clear away a substance known as gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) that inhibits signaling around neurons, or brain cells, in the central amygdala.
The amygdala is a region of the brain concerned with emotion, learning, memory, and motivation.
The scientists report their findings in a paper now published in the journal Science.
Disrupted ‘motivational control’
The authors explain that, of people who are exposed to alcohol, around 10–15 percent “develop alcohol-related problems.”
In their study, they found that a similar proportion (15 percent) of the rats that were exposed to alcohol persisted with alcohol-seeking and became addicted.
The rats continued to dose themselves with alcohol even when a “high-value” option, such as sugared water, was made available to them.
Most of the rats switched over to sugared water when given the option, but the persistent minority continued to dose themselves with alcohol. This was in spite of the fact that pressing the lever to get the substance also delivered a slight electric shock to the paw.
The team observed that the alcohol-seeking animals behaved in a similar way to humans who are addicted to alcohol. The rodents were highly motivated to get alcohol, even though there were negative consequences and another reward option.
“We have to understand,” explains senior study author Markus Heilig, who is a professor in clinical and experimental medicine at Linköping University in Sweden, “that a core feature of addiction is that you know it is going to harm you, potentially even kill you, and nevertheless something has gone wrong with the motivational control and you keep doing it.”
Signaling problem in the amygdala
When the researchers looked inside the rats’ brains, they discovered what might be disrupting the “motivational control.” First, they looked for differences in gene expression in different parts of the brain. The biggest differences were in the amygdala.
They revealed that the gene that codes for a protein called GAT-3 was expressed at much lower levels in the amygdala of the rats that continued to choose alcohol compared with the rats that switched to sugared water.
GAT-3 is a “transporter” protein that helps to clear away GABA from around neurons. Studies have also revealed that rats that become addicted to alcohol seem to have altered GABA signaling.
To confirm that the GAT-3 gene was at fault, the scientists ran another experiment in which they silenced GAT-3 in the rats that had switched over to sugared water in preference to alcohol.
The effect was striking: the GAT-3 silenced rats began to behave similarly to their alcohol-seeking counterparts. When they were again given a choice between dosing themselves with alcohol or sugared water, they chose alcohol.
Human alcoholism has same brain feature
Finally, in collaboration with a team from the University of Texas at Austin, the researchers analyzed GAT-3 levels in human postmortem brain tissue. They found that GAT-3 levels were lower in tissue taken from individuals with “documented alcohol addiction.”
The scientists believe that the findings will lead to improved treatments for alcohol dependence.
An investigation into the potential of using the muscular tension drug baclofen to treat alcohol dependence has shown some promising results but has not been able to explain what the mechanism of action might be.