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A 25 year study in Northern Sweden, published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Nutrition Journal, is the first to show that a regional and national dietary intervention to reduce fat intake, decreased cholesterol levels, but a switch to the popular low carbohydrate diet was paralleled by in an increase in cholesterol levels. Over the entire 25 year period the population BMI continued to increase, regardless of either diet, and both the increase in body mass and increased cholesterol levels are indicators of increased cardiovascular risk.
In the 1970′s it was noticed that the incidence of cardiovascular disease was higher in northern Sweden than anywhere else in the country and that for men it was amongst the highest in the world. The Västerbotten Intervention Programme (VIP) was set up in 1985 to address this and was later extended to include the entire country. The VIP included better food labelling, healthy information, cooking demonstrations and health examinations and counselling, including diet advice, and still continues today.
Evaluation of this program was combined with data from the WHO MONICA project which monitors cardiovascular disease risk factors. Researchers from Umeå University, University of Gothenburg, and The National Board of Welfare collaborated to review this information covering a 25 year period from 1986.
The impact of the VIP was clearly seen in the changing intake of fat and carbohydrate.