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WHO recommends diet to cut risk of cancer, heart disease

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Adopting a Mediterranean or Nordic-style diet could slash rates of cancer, diabetes and heart disease, a major review states.

The World Health Organization Monday pointed to the health benefits of both diets, which are low in dairy, sweets and red and processed meats.

The United Nation (UN) agency trawled through an array of scientific journals and other medical literature to unearth the evidence, in light of an obesity 'emergency'.

However, after analysing policies in 53 European countries, it warned less than a third are promoting either of the healthy diets, which the WHO said could save health systems money.

Vegetables, fish, nuts and olive oil are staples of the Med diet, while the Nordic diet incorporates more berries and pulses and instead revolves around rapeseed oil.

João Breda, of the WHO's office for prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases in Europe, called for more countries to adopt the diets.

He told The Guardian UK: “Both of these diets are really good in terms of impact on health. That is not in doubt.

“We wanted to know whether countries were using them to inform healthy eating policies.”

Who followed the diets? Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Malta, Macedonia, Spain and Turkey all promoted the Mediterranean diet in their government guidelines.

Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden all encouraged people to eat a Nordic diet.

An array of evidence has already proven the benefits of following a Mediterranean diet, from boosting heart health to delaying dementia.

And scientists are beginning to unearth similar benefits in adopting a Nordic diet, with studies having found it can keep the brain healthy.

The WHO's report said diet is a key risk factor in noncommunicable diseases, such as cancer, heart disease including stroke, chronic lung conditions, and diabetes.

Noncommunicable diseases - ones which are not passed between people - are the leading cause of death worldwide, killing around 40 million people per year.

The four main diseases are all linked to obesity, which is often caused by a poor diet. A third of people across the world are overweight, according to estimates.


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