By Rob Verkerk PhD, founder, executive and scientific director

The Nordic Lifestyle Medicine conference was held from last Friday through to Sunday (24-26April) at Stockholm’s Hasselby Castle. Heading the speaker’s bill was internationally-recognised nutritional scientist, functional medicine expert and creative visionary, Deanna Minich PhD. Deanna covered a diversity of subjects from the latest developments in nutritional science and epigenetics, through to detoxification, phytonutrients, hormone balancing and lifestyle coaching techniques.  A range of Swedish experts presented on the Friday (in Swedish) while I lectured throughout Saturday afternoon, on issues ranging from comparisons between the soil and human microbiome, to changes in agriculture and food quality, and food supplementation.

Hasselby Castle, to the west of Stockholm, venue for the Nordic Lifestyle Medicine Conference

The conference was hosted by Alpha-Plus AB, one of Sweden’s leading practitioner suppliers and practitioner training companies, along with the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute in the US.

Rob Verkerk and Peter Wilhelmsson, leading Swedish nutritionist and lifestyle practitioner, and owner of Alpha-Plus AB, Innovators Club member of ANH-Intl

In all, the gathered doctors and practitioners were exposed to some 20 hours of lectures. The responses and enthusiasm for new learning was palpable. However, the ability of Swedish practitioners to continue to support their patients and clients with concentrated nutrients in the form of food supplements is now gravely at risk.

The Swedish clamp-down

On Monday morning, I was asked to present to, and confer with, a newly established network of companies that are suffering at the hands of an overly-zealous Swedish regulator. The Swedes have long been passionate about natural health, with saunas, massage and healthy living being integral to the Swedish way of life. Supplements are not a new development either in Scandinavia. Generations grew up with various concentrated forms of nutrients, from cod liver oil to concentrated mosses, mushrooms and a diverse assortment of herbs and other plant foods.

There is an interesting trend towards the use and interest in supplements that increases as you move northward across Europe. My sense is that this is at least in part an evolutionary trend to cope with the dietary inadequacies caused by the short growing seasons or freight distances required to get foods to these markets. The plentiful supply of fresh fruits and vegetables of the Mediterranean is a far cry from the agricultural resources of any of the Scandinavian countries.

The National Food Administration is tasked by the European Commission to police EU laws on food supplements. In true Swedish tradition, it’s playing it by the book. The trouble is that it’s made it’s own book, it’s title giving the game away. It translates to the “Control Handbook”. As we speak, a wide range of high dose vitamins are being removed from shelves across Sweden. Some botanicals, like milk thistle, are already gone—at least where they’ve been spotted by the Swedish regulator.

Typically, the Swedish people are very compliant. They tolerate what is dished out to them by their government bureaucrats. You could say it’s not in their DNA to rise up against authority.

But on Monday, those of us gathered in Stockholm representing practitioners, consumers and five different companies started the development of an educational, advocacy and legal strategy that aims to work in the interests of Swedish consumers determined to manage their health by natural means. 

One company has already initiated legal processes to protect the sale of some of its supplements. But, by working together, the push back will begin.

As we are able, we will furnish our readers with more information on this unfolding campaign to protect natural health in Sweden.