Dietary Approach Helps Significantly Lower Blood Pressure
Individuals with hypertension will do well to emphasize dietary measures involving fat, vegetables and fruit, a study suggests.
Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study, supported by the National
Institutes of Health (NIH), revealed that a diet low in fat and high in
vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy foods significantly and quickly
lowers blood pressure. The diet worked particularly well for those with
high blood pressure, producing reductions similar to those from
single-drug therapy; however, it also proved effective for those with
high normal blood pressure, who are at substantial risk of developing
hypertension, NIH noted.
trial compared the effects of three diets: a control diet similar in
nutrients to what many Americans consume; a diet high in fruits and
vegetables; and a "combination" diet low in saturated and total fat,
and high in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods. The latter two
diets each had eight to 10 daily servings of fruits and vegetables,
about twice the average U.S. consumption. The combination diet also had
two to three daily servings of predominantly low-fat dairy foods, about
twice the current consumption, NIH said.
diets had about three grams of sodium daily — slightly below the
average U.S. consumption — and all included fresh, frozen, canned
and dried foods.
At the end of
eight weeks, the combination diet produced the largest reductions in
blood pressure, found the study, the final results of which appeared in
"The New England Journal of Medicine." Overall, the combination diet
reduced blood pressure by an average of 5.5 mm Hg for systolic and an
average of 3.0 mm Hg for diastolic. For those with hypertension, the
results were more dramatic: blood pressure reductions of an average of
11.4 mm Hg for systolic and an average of 5.5 mm Hg for diastolic.
comparison, over the same time period, the fruits and vegetables diet
reduced blood pressure for all participants by 2.8 mm Hg for systolic
and 1.1 mm Hg for diastolic, and for those with hypertension by 7.2 mm
Hg for systolic and 2.8 mm Hg for diastolic.
These blood pressure reductions occurred without changes in weight, or alcohol or sodium consumption, NIH noted.
blood pressure reductions happened quickly — within two weeks
after starting the diet — and were maintained for the rest of the
eight weeks on the diet, the study found. Researchers estimated that if
Americans followed the DASH diet and had the degree of blood pressure
reductions seen in the trial, there would be about 15 percent less
coronary heart disease and 27 percent fewer strokes in the United
"If added to
other lifestyle recommendations, the DASH diet should help prevent
hypertension and may reduce some persons' need for medication to
control the condition," said Dr. Claude Lenfant, director of the
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which was a major funder of
lifestyle recommendations are: to maintain a healthy weight, choose
foods lower in salt and sodium, drink alcohol in moderation (for those
who drink), and be physically active.
Researchers offered the following tips for "eating the DASH way":
Start small. Make gradual changes in your eating habits.
Center your meal around carbohydrates, such as pasta, rice, beans or vegetables.
Treat meat as one part of the whole meal, instead of the focus.
Use fruits or low-fat, low-calorie foods such as sugar-free gelatin for desserts and snacks.
Address: National Institutes of Health, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bldg 1, Bethesda, MD 20892; (301) 496-2433, http://www.nih.gov/dept.