WHO: Reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease by following either the Mediterranean or Nordic-style diet
06/18/2018 // RJ Jhonson // Views

A healthy diet composed of fish, meat, fruits, and vegetables can help curb the risk of many types of diseases. A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed this well-known fact, providing evidence that Mediterranean diet (MD) and Nordic diet (ND) can help prevent a slew of serious health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The authors gathered findings from various references, including books, conference papers, and academic journals. They then reviewed government and health ministry websites to find information on national policies regarding nutrition and healthy diet.

The researchers found studies conducted in three countries – Spain, Sweden, and Norway – that provided evidence on the benefits of promoting MD or ND.

Spain's food pyramid bears similarities to MD. It promotes the consumption of good fats, such as those found in fish and olive oil, whole grains, and about five portions of fruits and vegetables every day. A study found that adherence to these guidelines could help fight obesity and the diseases that come with it. (Related: Mediterranean diet can reverse metabolic disorder, lower risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease.)

Both Sweden and Norway followed ND. The former's guidelines encouraged people to eat berries, fish, nuts, fruits, vegetables, shellfish, whole grains, healthy fats, and low-fat dairy. They also promoted limits on the consumption of red and processed meats, salt, sugar, and alcohol.

A study on the effectiveness of Swedish nutritional guidelines found that adherence to the high-quality diet reduced the incidence of cardiovascular events, such as stroke and heart disease, by 27 percent in women and 32 percent in men.


In Norway, a study found that adherence to the Nordic Nutritional Requirements (NNR) helped prevent ischaemic heart disease. Non-adherence elevated the risk of contracting atherosclerosis in patients with diabetes. These two findings were interpreted as evidence the guidelines' effectiveness in the prevention and treatment of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.

Unfortunately, the study found that only 15 out of 53 countries in the European region promoted the diets. Eight countries, including Ireland and Greece, promoted MD, while seven, including Finland and Iceland, promoted ND.

Understanding the Mediterranean and Nordic diets

The Mediterranean diet represents the cooking and eating style of countries along the Mediterranean Coast, such as Spain, Italy, and France. Considered as a delicious but heart-friendly diet, it has the following characteristics:

  • It encourages the consumption of up to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables in a day.
  • It does not eschew cereals in general (Italians love their pasta, after all), but people are encouraged to consume whole grains.
  • It favors nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are favored. It recommends the avoidance of peanut butter except when it's natural.
  • It recommends eating red meat in moderation. The cut should be lean and the portion small. Bacon and other high-fat meat products should be avoided as well.
  • It recommends fish and poultry as the main sources of animal protein. Frying is discouraged one can grill them instead to remove extra fats while preserving flavor.
  • It does not use salt a lot. Most of the flavors in MD come from herbs and spices.
  • Although the French love their butter, MD encourages limiting fat sources to olive oil and similar products.
  • It promotes the consumption of red wine as part of the diet. Those who do not drink alcohol can have grape juice instead.

The Nordic diet is practiced in countries like Denmark and Norway. It bears many similarities to MD and is also seen as beneficial to the cardiovascular system. Some of its characteristics are:

  • It promotes the consumption of vegetables, including nuts and potatoes.
  • Its main sources of protein are fish and seafood.
  • It advocates the consumption of fresh fruits and berries.
  • It is lenient on cereals but encourages people to choose whole grains.
  • It recommends eating eggs and dairy in moderation.
  • It recommends the use of rapeseed oil.
  • It calls for infrequent consumption of red meat and animal fats, and the avoidance of added sugars, additives, and processed products.

Find out how you can use the Mediterranean and Nordic diets to lose weight and become healthier by following Slender.news.

Sources include:


Euro.WHO.int [PDF]



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