Health effects associated with foods characteristic of the Nordic diet: a systematic literature review

  • Agneta Åkesson
  • Lene F. Andersen
  • Ása G. Kristjánsdóttir
  • Eva Roos
  • Ellen Trolle
  • Eeva Voutilainen
  • Elisabet Wirfält


Background: In preparing the fifth edition of the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (NNR), the scientific basis of specific food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG) was evaluated.

Objective: A systematic review (SR) was conducted to update the NNR evidence based on the association between the consumption of potatoes, berries, whole grains, milk and milk products, and red and processed meat, and the risk of major diet-related chronic diseases.

Design: The SR was based on predefined research questions and eligibility criteria for independent duplicate study selection, data extraction, and assessment of methodological quality and applicability. We considered scientific data from prospective observational studies and intervention studies, published since year 2000, targeting the general adult population. Studies of meat and iron status included children, adolescents, and women of childbearing age.

Results: Based on 7,282 abstracts, 57 studies met the quality criteria and were evidence graded. The data were too limited to draw any conclusions regarding: red and processed meat intake in relation to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and iron status; potatoes and berries regarding any study outcomes; and dairy consumption in relation to risk of breast cancer and CVD. However, dairy consumption seemed unlikely to increase CVD risk (moderate-grade evidence). There was probable evidence (moderate-grade) for whole grains protecting against type 2 diabetes and CVD, and suggestive evidence (low-grade) for colorectal cancer and for dairy consumption being associated with decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and increased risk of prostate cancer. The WCRF/AICR concludes that red and processed meat is a convincing cause of colorectal cancer.

Conclusions: Probable (moderate) evidence was only observed for whole grains protecting against type 2 diabetes and CVD. We identified a clear need for high-quality nutritional epidemiological and intervention studies and for studies of foods of the Nordic diet.

Keywords: Nordic Nutrition Recommendations; systematic literature review; food-based dietary guidelines; berries; potatoes; whole grains; milk; meat

(Published: 9 October 2013)

Citation: Food & Nutrition Research 2013. 57: 22790 -

To access the appendices to this article please see Supplementary files under Article Tools online

Special Issue: This paper is part of the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations - The NNR5 project. More papers from this issue can be found at


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Åkesson A, Andersen LF, Kristjánsdóttir Ása G, Roos E, Trolle E, Voutilainen E, Wirfält E. Health effects associated with foods characteristic of the Nordic diet: a systematic literature review. fnr [Internet]. 2013Oct.9 [cited 2020Feb.25];00. Available from:
Nordic Nutrition Recommendations - The NNR5 project

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