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Poll: Nearly One-Fourth Of The Swedish Population Are Now Eating Low-Carb, Public Health Success

Cheer up fans of high-fat, low-carb living around the world because I’ve got some really exciting news to share with you today that will have you jumping for joy at the incredible progress being made about this way of eating right now in the nation of Sweden. Whether you realize it or not, there’s an outright low-carb revolution happening amongst the Swedish people that has been several years in the making thanks to an unprecedented chain of events that have unfolded featuring educated physicians and patients whose lives have been forever changed for the better because of healthy high-fat, low-carb living. This story I’m about to share with you today should inspire those of us in the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, and everywhere else livin’ la vida low-carb is impacting the lives of real people.

I’ve been telling you about the rise of the low-carb lifestyle taking place in Sweden for over three years now, including conducting podcast interviews with several of the key players in the low-carb movement there like medical practitioner Dr. Annika Dahlqvist, activist Per Wikholm, and triathlete Jonas Colting. And I’ll be interviewing the great “Diet Doctor” physician Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt on my podcast later this year to talk about the overwhelming success he has seen with his brand new 2011 book detailing what they call LCHF (low-carb, high-fat) is all about. But excitement about LCHF hit a fevered pitch this week when a new public opinion poll about Swedish eating habits released on Monday showed nearly one in four Swedes identify themselves as eating a low-carb diet. INCREDIBLE! Needless to say, this has lit a fire of excitement amongst those who have been championing healthy high-fat, low-carb living there–and I think it will encourage low-carbers around the world to continue spreading the good news about what this way of eating has done for our weight and health.

For those of you who have not been following this story about low-carb diets in Sweden closely over the past few years, let me catch you up on all that’s been happening. In December 2005, Dr. Dahlqvist was reported to a government entity called the National Board of Health and Welfare (similar to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration) by a pair of dietitians who claimed she was putting her patients at “severe risk” by recommending a low-carb, high-fat diet for treating diabetes and obesity. An investigation took place to determine whether Dr. Dahlqvist should be stripped of her medical license or if she would be able to continue to use the LCHF approach with patients. While the investigation was ongoing, her employer informed her she could no longer use her low-carb nutritional plan with patients–so she quit and went into practice for herself while awaiting the result of the charges filed against her.

On January 16, 2008, the National Board of Health and Welfare made their decision after carefully examining all of the evidence presented to them and declared publicly that a low-carb diet is “in accordance with science and well-tried experience for reducing obesity and Type 2 diabetes.” WOW! Sweden is likely the first country in the world to have an official government board admit that low-carb is a suitable treatment for diabetes and obesity. Dr. Dahlqvist was willing to put her entire medical career on the line to defend the low-carb nutritional principles she knew was helping her patients. Although the odds were stacked against her, she was confident in the science and stood strong in the face off immense adversity. In the end, she came out of this intense trial victorious as the Swedish government now recognizes healthy low-carb living, albeit begrudgingly. But this was merely the catalyst for some truly great things to come for the LCHF movement that immediately took off in Sweden.

By mid-2008, a public conversation about LCHF started happening led by Dr. Dahlqvist, Dr. Eenfeldt, and others to begin reeducating Swedish consumers about what a healthy high-fat, low-carb diet looks like so they can make changes in their own personal dietary habits to deal with obesity and chronic disease. You could say a high-fat, low-carb diet explosion began taking place as LCHF bloggers began popping up everywhere featuring people whose lives had been changed as a result of this way of eating. At times it even got a little heated in televised debates like this one in 2009 because the adherents to the conventional dietary wisdom were none-too-pleased at this promotion of saturated fats to consumers for their health. Because of the amazing work she did leading the charge for LCHF, I named Dr. Dahlqvist to my Top 10 Movers & Shakers of 2009 list…but she began having some help from a fellow Swedish physician who was also a big believer in high-fat, low-carb nutrition.

Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt created his “Kostdoktorn” blog which has since expanded in 2011 to an English version called “Diet Doctor” as a means for promoting the principles of a healthy high-fat, low-carb, real food lifestyle change that can be used therapeutically for patients struggling with health issues traditionally treated by medical doctors pharmaceutically. He wanted to reach outside the borders of Sweden, though, and began attending some American obesity conferences like The American Society of Bariatric Physicians and Nutrition & Metabolism Society Symposium beginning in 2010 (and I named him to my Top 10 Low-Carb Movers & Shakers of 2010 for his tireless efforts to educate himself further to pass along to the readers of his top-rated low-carb blog in Sweden). We also signed him up to be a guest speaker on The Annual Low-Carb Cruise in 2010 to share about the remarkable success of LCHF in Sweden. His very first English presentation was very well-received by nearly 100 enthusiastic supporters of healthy low-carb living in the United States. With the much-anticipated January 2011 release of his Swedish language book on LCHF called Matrevolutionen, Dr. Eenfeldt has set the stage for even more widespread communication of the low-carb message to the people of Sweden–and quite possibly around the world if the book’s amazing success so far continues and is translated into other languages (I’m looking forward hearing Dr. Eenfeldt speak again and meet a group of LCHF advocates who will be joining us on The 4th Annual Low-Carb Cruise coming up May 1-7, 2011).

So, is the LCHF movement making a REAL difference in the lives of the people of Sweden? That’s what a new March 2011 poll of 1,000 Swedish citizens between the ages of 18-89 conducted by Demoskop wanted to find out. Commissioned by Pagina/Optimal, the leading publisher of LCHF and other low-carb books (including Swedish translations of bestselling low-carb books like Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It, Leirre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth and The New Atkins For A New You by Dr. Stephen Phinney, Dr. Jeff Volek and Dr. Eric Westman), they simply wanted to know the answer to the following question:

“Do you try to eat fat but minimize your intake of carbohydrates–the low-carb, high-fat or LCHF method?”

Here’s a graph outlining the results of the poll (it’s in Swedish, but I’ll explain below):


(Click on the image above to ENLARGE)

You can see the full report in Swedish by clicking here, but Dr. Eenfeldt provided some English translation assistance by creating this graph with the demographics of those who responded to the poll:

These numbers are pretty astonishing when you stop and think about it. Here are some of the key findings that are worth noting:

  • Nearly one in four (23%) respondents are carb-conscious
  • Five percent are hard-core adherents to high-fat, low-carb (LCHF) living
  • Interestingly, nearly twice as many women (7%) than men (4%) follow LCHF
  • The older respondents seem more carb-conscious than the younger ones
  • Nearly one-third 55-89 year olds are eating a low-carb diet
  • Low and medium income watch carbs at the same rate as high income
  • High income respondents are more likely to afford eating a LCHF diet
  • Retired respondents over 65 (7%) do LCHF more than working 45-64 year olds (5%)
  • 30-44 year olds support LCHF (7%) at highest percentage of total carb watchers (20%)
  • Students and the unemployed can’t afford to purchase LCHF foods, still watch carbs

    One of my Swedish readers told me the television news station that reported on this poll interviewed a dietitian rooted in conventional dietary wisdom about it and he said it was “all the normal nonsense” that you hear from these so-called health experts. She accused the Swedish people of being “carbphobic” and dismissed the findings as ignorance. Sounds like somebody has sour grapes to me and is extremely jealous of the attention being paid to a healthy and delicious nutritional plan that is greatly improving the weight and health of those who try it for themselves. The implications of this momentum happening in Sweden cannot be overstated. THIS IS HUGE!

    Juxtapose this new poll with a Google Trender keyword search for “LCHF” in Sweden and the picture will become even more stark by comparison:

    Prior to 2008, nobody in Sweden had even heard of LCHF. But after the National Board of Health and Welfare made their decision clearing Dr. Dahlqvist’s good name by noting a low-carb diet is “in accordance with science and well-tried experience for reducing obesity and Type 2 diabetes,” interest in the LCHF lifestyle began to skyrocket and the trend has not slowed down yet. In fact, Google searches for “LCHF” in Sweden have more than doubled in just the past year alone which likely led those people who were searching to visit any number of outstanding low-carb blogs there, get educated about what this way of eating is about, and then start doing it for themselves. That’s why the numbers in this survey were so incredible!

    The fact is this has happened very quickly mostly through word-of-mouth since LCHF has not been endorsed by the government or health leaders. Can you imagine if low-carb, high-fat diets were to be deliberately PROMOTED to the Swedish people as “healthy” what would happen? Those poll numbers above would easily double overnight and the health of the citizens there would improve dramatically without the need for taking risky medications or ever going on a hunger-inducing, unpalatable low-fat diet ever again! Restaurants and grocery stores would need to cater to the LCHF consumer by offering higher-fat food offerings to consumers such as butter, full-fat cheeses, cream, steak, and low-carb staples like spinach, broccoli and cauliflower. It’s a revolution happening right before our eyes in a country that could easily be setting a trend for other nations to follow!

    Most amazing to me is the fact that this has all happened on the grassroots level through the tireless efforts of a lot of people getting involved in promoting LCHF within their circle of influence. It’s as if people have given up being lied to about how to eat from those experts who are supposed to know better about what is most effective and now the people are turning to alternative sources of information coming from bloggers who are telling their success stories since they are real-life examples of what healthy high-fat, low-carb living can do. My speech on the Low-Carb Cruise in a few weeks is called “Following Your Passion To Change The World” where I will challenge the participants to find their talents and use them to bring about change in support of this amazing low-carb lifestyle. The time for making this happen is NOW!

    Will we see a similar trend like what has happened in Sweden start to happen someday soon in the United States of America? It may seem improbable and maybe even impossible to fathom right now. But perhaps the Swedes are giving us a foretaste of the future of America, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries around the world who desperately need their own dietary revolution to take place. I have a feeling it’s coming sooner than later and I’ll be here ready, willing, and able to do my part to help educate, encourage, and inspire the masses when it does. Will you?

    • john

      What is the popular Swedish opinion on saturated fat?

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        Same as it is in America…scared to death of it from years of indoctrination. But that’s changing.

    • Tuck

      Fabulous news, Jimmy. It’s really turning into a revolution…

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        It’s awesome! May have to take a trip to Sweden sometime soon.

    • http://www.lchf.se Per Wikholm

      You´re welcome do drop by over here any time you like Jimmy! The Swedish summer is moore pleasant than the winter though!

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        We’ll make that happen.

    • Stephanie O.

      How cool is that! When I was reading your post from 2009 with the televsion debate it reminded me of a today show segment I saw several years ago with Veronica Atkins promoting the Atkins for Life Cookbook, and (stupid) Ann Curry scolding Mrs. Atkins during the segment about how unhealthy the recipies must be. ( http://video.app.msn.com/watch/video/atkins-for-life-low-carb-cookbook/68b7zob )

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        Thanks Stephanie! I’d never seen that.

    • Kaspersky

      Hi Jimmy,

      Great news about Sweden. I am a HFLC proponent, but I think it is also very important to rely on getting other parts of lifestyle correct too. I have taken vitamin D, K2 and thyroid for some time – but my weight continued to rise. But then, I added HFLC and since have lost about 14 pounds in about 3 months. But, I suspect that it is combination of approaches that is working. I am particularly keen that the work of Dr Broda Barnes is remembered as there is a clear link between thyroid and lipids. We all want to live forever right?

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        As long as we can.

    • http://www.fetsmart.se/blog/ fetsmart

      As a long time keen reader of your blog, should your roadtrip include Gothenburg, You are hereby invited to my home to share a meal of delicious swedish meatballs and some other low carb specialties!

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        I’m coming to Sweden for sure…someday.

    • http://www.kostdoktorn.se Andreas Eenfeldt

      Looking forward to hearing your speech on the cruise Jimmy!

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        Yours too buddy.

    • http://luluscastle.blogspot.com Lulu

      I really hope people will try LCHF, and notice all the benefits it brings.
      /Luiza from Sweden

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        Looks like a lot are. :)

    • gullan

      You are welcome to Sweden. It is pretty exciting to be living here right now, but even so I read in my local paper (Smalandsposten) yesterday that one school in the area was warned about the danger of giving children butter and full cream milk.
      It is really frustrating that the revolution is so slow!

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        The tide is turning for you…got to visit Sweden someday.

    • Sara

      It´s really amazing. I´m swedish and me and my husband have been eating like this for about seven years or so. We´ve become used to defending our way of eating and have allways tried to point to the science behind all this. Now we´ve noticed a change. Several families we know have now changed their eating behaviour and are frequently asking for advice on what to eat or wondering which book to buy. Recently another report showed that the meat consumtion in Sweden were rising.

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        Awesome news!

    • http://vitamind3.blogspot.com/ Ted Hutchinson

      I think the difference in Sweden is that it has been a bottom up approach with the tireless work of Dr. Dahlqvist’s (working together with some other excellent people) going round talking directly to ordinary people in town/village halls and speaking directly to the media.

      In these talks the “official” policy has been attacked directly and the “offical” response was effectively taken apart and shown to be inadequate by Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, MD (see his 3 part article Saturated Fat is Good for You on Spacedoc.net.)
      While I admit it was the Taubes online science driven lectures that attracted my interest, this was a top down approache aimed at changing the minds of Doctors and Dieticians.
      I think maybe Tom Naughton’s approach, which you can see in his DVD Big Fat Fiasco, where he talks directly to his local community in the library, is something we could all copy and even if it’s just in a minor way to spread the word. I wonder what would have been the effect if ‘Why We Get Fat’ By Gary Taubes had been published at the same time as “Good Calories, Bad Calories”

      I think the Swedish people have been able to see the sincerity, integrity and simple common sense at the heart of Dr. Dahlqvist’s message and it’s fortunate that the young, articulate Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt was able willing to support her work so publicly and present the scientific backup support for her campaign in his website.

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        We are kinda bringing the experts to the people with the Low-Carb Cruise, but you’re talking about on a grander scale.

    • Viggo

      We’re slowly following in Norway too! :D

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        Awesome! Please email me any news that happens in Norway regarding LCHF.

    • Dame Liberty

      Will be interesting to see upcoming statistics on rates of diabetes, atherosclerosis, auto-immune diseases, etc. And the price of meat.

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        Diabetes will disappear, heart disease will be a non-factor, autoimmune diseases will vanish and meat will be local, grass-fed and affordable.

    • http://www.beefandwhiskey.com mrfreddy

      What more could a guy want, blonds and beef everywhere you look! That’s it, I’m moving to Sweeden!

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        Ha ha ha! I’m right behind you buddy.

    • Katrin

      I am a Swede living in the US, and I am slowly trying to “convert” my friends and American family to LCHF, or at least to open their eyes on how easily they can make a huge change in their lives.

      I am closely following the revolution going on in Sweden, and can only hope some of it rubs off on the US, since it is desperatly needed! :-)

      Very exciting stuff indeed…

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        Can’t come quickly enough

    • Biggins

      It´s going to be fun to see how this will effect teh candy-industry in Sweden. We Swedes eat about 30 lbs of candy per person per year. But more and more people are starting to watch what they eat, and fat isn´t the number one enemy anymore. ;)

      I must admit that it still feels weird to use as mutch fat as I do in cooking. But I think it´s just the indoctrination speaking. I like all of you others have heard since I was a small boy “that fat is bad for you”.

      But no one questions you when you ask for a salad instead of potatoes with your meal anymore. They used to, but now its as you can see from the statistics common that people skip the potatoes.

      The only sad thing is that we still do 7000 gasticbypasses per year…

      /Richard

      PS. Sorry about the spelling, don´t usualy write in english.DS

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        That’s amazing Richard. And your English was outstanding.

    • Thomas

      Whats’s missing is clinical long term data on LCHF. But not for long! A two years RCT on diebetes patients eating LCHF should be published very soon in Sweden. This will accelerate the food revolution in Sweden.Dr Eenfeldt interviewed professor Fredrik Nyström last year on this subject.BTW, thanks for a great podcast show!

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        THANKS Thomas! Let me know when that research is published. I’m seriously considering coming to Sweden to film a documentary on the LCHF movement there as an encouragement for the same thing to happen in the United States.

        • Denise

          YES Jimmy – please do it…… the message will get out. By initially following a low fat low carb diet 3 yrs ago I lost 17lbs but then I read more and more of the high fat low carb info around and switched – that was over two years ago now and since then I have gone from a size 14 to a size 4 – back to where I was when in my 20′s (40 years ago). Yes LCHF is definitely the way to go but telling those around me here in the US is like pulling teeth. People need to open their eyes as well as their minds and stop being lemmings.

          • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

            CONGRATULATIONS! Keep it up.

    • http://birgittahoglundsmat.wordpress.com Birgitta Höglund’s Food

      Finally, people around the world starting to realise that our oldfashioned, natural food is the healthiest we can eat ;)

      Hopefully this can lead to more grassfed cattle, freerange eggs and the start growing our own vegetables in the backyard.
      Monsanto and Unilever may not like it, but I think our bodies will.

      You are very welcome to Sweden, Jimmy. Would be nice to show You our beautiful mountains in Jämtland :)

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        We will make that happen, Birgitta.

    • http://www.lchf.se Per Wikholm

      That documentary film is really a good idea, Jimmy!!!

      Inspired by Ancel Keys “research” on the harm of fat, a couple of Swedish physicians managed to ring the alarm bell and Sweden in march 1971 (40 year anniversery!)became the first country in the world to issue governmental dietary guidlines promoting eating less fat and more carbs. 1977 the USA adopted similar guidlines thanks to George McGoverns senate committe.

      Inspired by these swedish dietary guidlines Anna-Britt Agnsäter invented the Food Pyramid in 1974 in Sweden, which was later exported to the USA and a lot of other countries around the world.

      So there is quite a story to tell here, Jimmy! I hope my country, Sweden can now lead the global low carb revolution and eventually atone for its sins.

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        I’m serious about doing this. Should make for a fascinating project.

    • http://www.lifezone.se Monique

      I gave (a smaller) lecture in Cape Town, South Africa on LCHF! The interest even there was huge! So it’s def. growing! But in Sweden it is huge, more healthy people arising from it!

      Looking so forward to meeting you and listening to your talk on the cruise! See u in a few weeks! :)

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        Looking forward to meeting you Monique.

    • Ethel Loberg

      Great Jimmy that you tell the Americans about the story of Annika Dahlqvist, we are so proud of her here in Sweden. Thanks!

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        She’s a hero for being willing to stand up to those who would dare tell her she was harming her patients prescribing a low-carb diet to them.

    • Ethel Loberg

      Right!

    • http://theartofnotworking.blogspot.com/ Judith B

      Hurrah for Sweden, and multiple hurrahs for Dr Dahlquist. And hurrah for the Internet! Here in New Zealand I discovered Dr Dahlquist’s diet via Google two years ago and have never looked back. It changed my life. I owe Dr Dahlquist and all the other low carb bloggers I subsequently discovered, a huge debt of gratitude. And that includes you, Jimmy. Thank you!

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        Thank you!

    • http://superhighbloodpressure.blogspot.com/ Flavia

      I’m starting to believe more in evolutionary biology and how it relates to eating. It does kind of make sense that a people that grew up on the tundra would do better with more ancestral foods such as meat and dairy. I doubt the Swedes ate much in the way of tropical fruits, and certainly not a lot of processed foods. I wouldn’t count out whatever starch grows there and berries though. I think that would be quite an interesting experiment- we can’t go back to Paleo times, but we do know what people in the Roman Times and through the Byzantine were eating. I wonder if this would help us achieve better health. Im 100% Mediterranean European so I guess it’s olives and wine for me :) YAY!!

    • Susanne

      Hi!
      This is very interesting because I do really feel that the opinion in Sweden has shifted over the last years. In 2008 I started eating lchf for the first time and everyone I met was suspicious and even angry about my diet. I quit the diet in two months because it was so hard keeping it up with everyone against me.

      Now, 2011 I am on it again and I feel great and the reactions I get is a lot milder and understanding. Because more people have now tried the diet and seen with their own eyes what fantastic things happens with their health and body!
      Sweden is on the go :)

      • http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com Jimmy Moore

        Awesome!