ULC diets in Sweeden


Dieting craze blamed for cholesterol surge in Sweden


On top of that we have the problem of:

1) Total cholesterol will kill you
2) Total cholesterol will not kill you

This is a very difficult thing to argue, or even discuss. The proponents of 1) are not interested in looking at 2) in any way, shape or form. And vice versa.

A dieting craze in Sweden has been blamed for a surprise surge in cholesterol levels that may be putting people at increased risk of heart disease.

Having read the article we know that the craze is LCHF – and it should be no surprise that this causes total cholesterol levels to change, quite often in what is considered an upwards fashion by conventional wisdom. However straight out of the gate the writer is leaning on typical grey area, non-committal phrasing. That “may be putting”.

The link was uncovered by a 25-year study looking at diet and heart disease risk factors in the north of the country. An unexpected rise in population cholesterol followed an increase in fat consumption in 2004, reversing earlier trends.

At the same time there was an explosion in the popularity of low carbohydrate/high fat (LCHF) diets in Sweden. The diets focus on cutting out sugar and starch while upping intake of fats, including saturated fat.

The link that LCHF diets cause different cholesterol panels compared to more conventional diets? If it was unexpected that total cholesterol was going to rise after eating a high fat diet and the researchers were people involved then what? Fat-cholesterol link has been know for.. a long time. It is the driver behind current diet trends, originating out of the US, thanks to Ancel Keys.

Its proponents, such as Dr Annika Dahlqvist, who is credited with starting the Swedish craze, argue that it helps maintain normal weight and blood sugar while freeing people to eat their favourite foods.

Favorite foods is a bit too broad a brush to use in this case. Should be rephrased to free to eat fats, I guess? Perhaps when all the “loose the fat” rhetoric first entered the media and government propaganda, fat may have been considered a popular food type. However these days this is probably not the case for a lot of people. Something like cake, bread or pasta sits in this niche. However, interestingly the pasta could be heaped with a nice dollop of fatty sauce, yet the person eating does not consider the pasta unhealthy.

A poll last year suggested that a quarter of Swedes had at least partly adopted an LCHF diet. Around 5% had taken it up seriously, leading the DietDoctor website to hail a “Swedish low carb revolution”. There were even reports of stores running out of butter due to increasing demand.

So researchers were surprised by the fact that lipid panels had changed yet stores were running out of butter, 25% of the population had at least partially taken up the diet. Whatever, I’m sure it gets better.

The new study was launched in 1986 after concerns about the high incidence of heart disease in northern Sweden.


The Vasterbotten Intervention Programme (VIP) continues to this day.

This is the killer. After all this research – 140,000 measurements and 25 years worth – there is no comment about reduction of heart disease. Or even comment about link to heart disease. Over a 25 year period this should be giving some sort of results or numbers relating to heart disease. The whole point of this article is to poo-poo LCHF yet the key point that is the nail in the coffin – some sort of reduction in heart disease or metabolic syndrome related ailments is completely missing.

Instead we get.

reduction in fat consumption
reduction in cholesterol levels
education and food labelling programme

Excellent. Is there a point to a study to prove that fatty foods raise cholesterol? The effect of fat on cholesterol is fairly well documented – typically the contentious point is the effect of cholesterol, specifically cholesterol breakdown generated by a fatty diet.

At least the food labelling programme worked, right?

Blood cholesterol levels remained roughly unaltered between 2002 and 2007, but then showed a sharp rise.

In 2010 the average cholesterol level for men was around 5.5 millimoles per litre of blood, and for women slightly less. This was despite a significant increase in the number of people taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.

In earlier years, cholesterol levels had declined from a peak of more than six millimoles in 1986.

Again, not exactly unexpected if the population is now eating more fat and less carbohydrate. Some people are on satins and still the general cholesterol numbers are up. This would indicate that more people are changing their diet than those put on drugs? Seems irrelevant.

Over the whole 25-year period there was no sign that dieting of any kind helped people lose weight. Average body mass index (BMI), a measurement relating weight and height, showed a consistent rise in both men and women.

Yeah, yeah. Dieting is ineffective, this is not news. Diet changes and lifestyle changes (as opposed to dieting) might be effective? Or does one have to tow the traditional low fat line in order to not be pigeon holed as being on a “diet”?

In fact it is interesting that this is included in the article at all, since overall, the piece seems to be rooting for the cholesterol is bad camp, although as I read it for a third time I can’t say with certainty what the author wants to say beyond “Dieting craze blamed for cholesterol surge in Sweden”.

Lets back up a bit and look at what has been stated.

1) A Northern Sweden, 25 year study started in 1986 because of concerns over heart disease rates.

2) Cholesterol rates went down after introduction of an education and food labelling programme aimed at reducing fat intake.

3) BMI of the population has risen since that point in time

Point three would entail all the fun things that go along with more fat due to increased carbohydrate intake. Metabolic syndrome, Diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease.

They just torpedoed themselves with that paragraph.

Professor Ingegerd Johansson, from the University of Umea, who led the research published in Nutrition Journal, said: “The association between nutrition and health is complex. It involves specific food components, interactions among those food components, and interactions with genetic factors and individual needs.

Agreed 100% – including conventional wisdom diets like the American or Australian diets.

“While low carbohydrate/high fat diets may help short-term weight loss, these results of this Swedish study demonstrate that long-term weight loss is not maintained and that this diet increases blood cholesterol, which has a major impact on risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Right. Why are losses not maintained? The general reason for weight gain after dieting is reverting to old eating habits once the weight is gone. On top of that, post-diet weight gain quite often results in more fat that prior to weight loss. Since this is not actually discussed it is probably safe to assume this is the reason for putting the fat back on. As far as cardiovascular disease goes.. the author has done an amazing job of avoiding changes in heart disease numbers throughout the article. With a 25 year study one would think that they could, conclusively, or at least imply, changes in heart disease rate due to lower cholesterol.

Maybe the author thought that harping on “more cholesterol” was sufficient. We all know that more cholesterol means more cardiovascular disease, thus he can get away without actually saying it..

In their paper, the researchers said the marked increase in cholesterol levels after 2007 was “a deep concern”.

They added: “After 2004 fat intake increased, especially saturated fat and butter-based spread for bread and butter for cooking.

This goes back to the first thing on this page. Cholesterol will kill you / Cholesterol won’t kill you camps. Not really possible to argue one way or another.

“Supportive opinions in media for high-fat diets seem to have had an impact on consumer behaviours. Initially beneficial and thereafter deleterious changes in blood cholesterol paralleled these trends in food selection, whereas a claimed weight reduction by high-fat diets was not seen in the most recent years.

“In contrast, BMI increased continuously over the 25-year period. These changes in risk factors may have important effects on primary and secondary prevention of CVD (cardiovascular disease).”

If the point of the article is to say that cholesterol is bad for people and you should do everything possible to lower it then they have missed the boat. Ample opportunity to point it out yet not a mention. The whole article is brought down by the fact that cholesterol is looked at from “total” stand point rather than hdl/ldl/vldl/triglicerides. Even in the die hard conventional camp this is not really the case anymore and at the very least LDL should be put under the microscope.

If the point is that diets fail then.. thats fair enough. We are destined to become land whales.

The article is confused, sends a decidely mixed message and in the end doesn’t really say anything.

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