DASH Diet – Does it really lower blood pressure?

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet studies and results have been groundbreaking and powerful enough to stand on the test of time.

The first DASH study results were published in 1997, As a result of the powerful results, the DASH diet is still the dietary standard for the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.

The DASH diet recommends a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, beans, whole grains, oils and nuts, and limit sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages and red meats. Overly processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages should be avoided or limited. 

The original DASH study began by assessing how blood pressures rises with age. Half of the adults in the United States suffer from high blood pressure, which is a precursor for heart attacks and strokes. 459 adults were split into three different diet groups: a typical American diet, an American diet with extra fruits and vegetables, and a DASH diet (more fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy).

All food was prepared by the researchers which made the outcomes of this study well-controlled. After a period of eight weeks, the group consuming extra fruits and vegetables greatly reduced their blood pressure. However, the group on the DASH diet demonstrated even better results.

DASH also conducted a study assessing sodium intake. All three diets from the previous study had similar sodium intakes. Researchers on the study were curious to see if reducing sodium intake in the DASH diet and the American diet showed any specific change. 412 individuals were split into high-sodium (3,300 mg), moderate-sodium (2,400 mg), and low-sodium groups (1,500 mg). The participants consuming a lower sodium diet showed a substantial decrease in blood pressure across the board with older adults demonstrating even more drastic results.

Due to these results, DASH decided to conduct one more study on carbohydrate reduction. The goal of this study was to reduce carbohydrate intake and to replace it with unsaturated fats and protein. It adopted the same healthy DASH dietary pattern. This study found even greater results with lowering blood pressure than the original DASH diet. 

All three studies are further confirmation that a diet high in plant foods and lean protein as well as low in sodium is one of the best solutions for lowering blood pressure. The authors are still investigating why these foods make such a significant impact on hypertension.

What is the take home message? Encouraging people with diabetes to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, beans, whole grains, oils and nuts, and limit sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages and red meats and added salt can make a big difference in blood pressure and overall health.

For more information on the DASH diet, visit “5 diet studies that made a difference.”

Contributed by: Sofia Sepulveda


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