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DASH Diet Improves Heart Health Too Study Shows

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 10:49 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Hypertension, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Heart Disease, Diet

Americans don't eat enough fruit and vegetables the Nurses Health study shows.



IMAGE SOURCE: WikimediaCommons/ still life with fruit, Cezanne 1885-1890/ The Yorck Project


Diet is a four letter word.   The DASH Diet is an eating plan for life.

That's why the National Institutes of Health originally promoted the plan to lower blood pressure without medication.  Hypertension affects one in four Americans over the age of 60. 

Now researchers say the DASH diet also lessens your risk for coronary heart disease and stroke.

In this study, 89,000 women, part of the Nurses’ Health study, were followed over a period of 24 years.  They were grouped by scores based on their dietary habits.

The high DASH score eater consumed lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains and low-fat or no-fat dairy, more closely resembling a vegetarian diet with no junk food.

The low DASH scorers ate red meat, processed foods, sodium and sodas, in other words, the typical American fare.

During the 24-years, 2,317 of the nurses had strokes and 2,129 suffered non-fatal heart attacks.   976 had fatal coronary heart disease.

Those with the highest scores were 24 percent less likely to experience coronary heart disease and 18 percent less likely to have a stroke than those grouped in the bottom one-fifth.

None of the nurses had diabetes or heart disease at the beginning of the study.

While only women were included in the Nurses study, the results are thought to also apply to men.

To access their diet, the nurses reported their typical diet seven times of the 24-year study. The results are published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, April 14, 2008. 

“Our study provides, to our knowledge, the strongest evidence to date on the long-term benefits of the DASH diet in the primary prevention of CVD among healthy subjects,” writes Teresa T. Fung, ScD. Of Simmons College, Boston, the study’s lead author.

Blood samples showed that the higher DASH group had the lowest measures of compounds (interleukin 6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP)) that are associated with inflammation and heart disease.

The typical U.S. diet is too high in salt and denatured or “white” carbohydrates that rapidly convert to sugar and throw the body into an unbalanced state.

DASH which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension was developed as a dietary guideline for Americans to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and improve insulin sensitivity, all without medication. It was based on observations that the vegetarian diet, promoted by Dr. Dean Ornish, had less hypertention among followers.

Rich in fruit, vegetables, low fat dairy, whole grains, lean meats and fish nuts and beams.  Most people find they also lose weight.

DASH supplies key nutrients such as potassium, calcium and magnesium which are associated with lower blood pressure. 

The CDC recommends 5 to 10 servings of fruits or vegetables a day, something few Americans achieve. 2-3 servings are more typical.

Researchers first published results from a DASH study in 1997. It found that Americans with high blood pressure were even less likely to follow a DASH diet several years later, with only 19 percent of Americans on the DASH diet.

Poverty, younger age, African American race and a body mass index of 30 or more predicted a lower DASH score.

Specifically the DASH diet plan includes:

Type of food

Number of servings for 1600 - 3100 Calorie diets

Servings on a 2000 Calorie diet

Grains and grain products
(include at least 3 whole grain foods each day)

6 - 12

7 - 8


4 - 6

4 - 5


4 - 6

4 - 5

Low fat or non fat dairy foods

2 - 4

2 - 3

Lean meats, fish, poultry

1.5 - 2.5

2 or less

Nuts, seeds, and legumes

3 - 6 per week

4 - 5 per week

Fats and sweets

2 - 4


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