New World Health Organization Europe report

Nordic and Mediterranean countries can make more of healthy cuisine

A new report from World Health Organization Europe looks into the health-promoting properties of Mediterranean and the Nordic diets, which have won acclaim for helping to prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

The report analyses which country policies and interventions have been inspired by the basic principles of the Mediterranean and Nordic diets, while also examining whether there is evidence of effectiveness in reducing disease.

The traditional Mediterranean diet, originating in the olive-growing areas of southern Europe, is characterized by a high intake of plant-based foods and olive oil; a moderate intake of fish and poultry; and a low intake of dairy products, red meat, processed meats and sweets. Shared eating practices, post-meal siestas and lengthy meal times are also thought to contribute to the attributed positive health effects recorded in the Mediterranean region, according to the WHO.

The New Nordic diet shares many characteristics with the Mediterranean diet but comprises foods traditionally sourced in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, like berries and fruits, fatty fish, lean fish, legumes, vegetables and whole grain cereals.

Expanding our understanding of how to promote these healthy dietary patterns is an urgent priority, says João Breda, head of the WHO European Centre for control and prevention of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

"We would like to underline the importance of better diets for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases as well as obesity. Traditional diets, notably the Nordic and Mediterranean, can have a positive impact on health, environment and well-being," Breda added in a written comment to The Local.

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