Wholegrain food prevents lifestyle diseases

The investigation of biological material and dietary information collected from more than 245 000 persons from Copenhagen, Umeå (Sweden) and Tromsø (Norway) will reveal the true health effects of Nordic food habits. In the space of five years a joint Nordic research programme on Food, Nutrition & Health will study the positive and negative effects of the traditional Nordic diet.
The most striking characteristic of the Nordic diet is the fundamental position of wholegrain products. Rye, oat and wheat are eaten in unrefined or partly refined form in larger quantities than anywhere else in the Western World. Research gives strong indications that intake of whole grain may be a dietary practice of considerable importance for public health as a high intake of such food has been linked to decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

But the introduction of new food habits are threatening the public health impact of wholegrain products; in recent years the traditional Nordic diet has been severely challenged by the Mediterranean diet, and Nordic consumers swap wholegrain bread products for the less healthy baguettes and ciabattas.

In the space of five years the positive and assumed negative health effects of wholegrain food will be the focus of the Nordic research project NCoE HELGA: Nordic Health – Wholegrain Food 2007-2011. Collected blood samples reveal the quantity of the patients’ whole grain intake, and this will be investigated in relation to the incidence and development of cancer and other lifestyle diseases. HELGA is coordinated by Anne Tjønneland at the Danish Cancer Society.

It is important to make a joint Nordic effort in this research area; the combination of a great intake of wholegrain food in the Nordic countries and some distinct differences in the use of wholegrain among the countries, provides perfect conditions for research in the field. The extensive and reliable patient and epidemiological registries of Nordic hospitals are also important Nordic assets.
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