Saturday, March 15, 2008

Regionally defined diets for health, the environment and cultural diversity in food habits

Last week I spent my days cross country skiing on Hardangervidda in Norway. We went from hut to hut. Some of these huts, Rauhelleren (, see the picture next to this message) in particular, serve so-called ‘lokal mat’: regionally grown or raised food. We ate salmon, wild trout, preserved berries of different kinds, some marinated elk, cauliflower soup, and the Norwegian brown cheese.

During the evenings there was plenty of time for reading. I brought Michael Pollan’s new book, In Defence of Food. Pollan argues in this book in favour of focussing on real foods and meals in stead of on nutrients and processed foods, including the so-called functional foods that claim various health benefits. Pollan builds a strong case in a book that is a very good read.

This same week a paper that I co-authored with my Norwegian colleague Elling Bere appeared in electronic pre-publication in Public Health Nutrition ( This paper, entitled ‘Towards health promoting and environmental-friendly regionally defined diets: A Nordic example’ argues for a similar case as Pollan does in his book. We present a Nordic ‘diet’ with foods and ingredients that are and have been appropriate and abundant in the Nordic countries, for which scientific evidence supports health enhancing effects. The best knows health promoting total diet is the so-called Mediterranean diet, but we claim that diets with similar health enhancing properties can be based on regionally appropriate foods. Such an approach will help to protect cultural diversity in eating habits, bio-diversity and the environment.