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What is DASH diet and is it even effective?

DASH diet and a diet high in fruits and vegetables both reduce heart disease risk scores by roughly 10%

By Web Desk
January 31, 2023
Plate of Assorted Vegetables Beside a Plate of Nuts and Beans.— Pexels
Plate of Assorted Vegetables Beside a Plate of Nuts and Beans.— Pexels

The phrase "eat healthier for your heart" is known by many people, but what does it actually mean? Finally, some specifics on a heart-healthy diet are being provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre researchers. 

Their research, published in The American Journal of Cardiology, reveals that over the course of eight weeks, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and a diet high in fruits and vegetables both reduce heart disease risk scores by roughly 10%.

Even if concentrating on fruits and vegetables can be effective, experts claim that the DASH diet, particularly when compared to a Western diet, appears to have additional advantages for women and Black adults. 

The average Western diet is high in fat and sodium and low in fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, the DASH diet focuses on lowering blood pressure and also includes a tonne of foods that are high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Why is this kind of research so crucial? 

More than 800,000 people die from cardiovascular disease each year in the United States alone, making it the leading cause of mortality. Although it's well known that a balanced diet can reduce cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol, there isn't much evidence to support any one particular diet for heart-conscious diners.

“Our study suggests that the benefits associated with these diets may vary by sex and race. While a diet rich in fruits and vegetables produced reductions in risk for woman and Black participants, the effect with the DASH diet was twice as large in women and four times as large in Black adults," said corresponding study author Stephen P. Juraschek, MD, PhD, a clinician-researcher in the Department of Medicine at BIDMC, in a media release.

The authors of the study examined a dataset consisting of 459 people aged 22 to 75 who took part in the original DASH trial between 1994 and 1996 in order to ascertain the impact of various diets on a person's risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. About half of the participants in that group were African Americans, and they followed one of three diets for eight weeks. The control diet largely resembled a Western diet and was high in cholesterol, saturated fat, and total fat. The fruit and vegetable diet had more produce, but aside from that, there were no other notable differences between it and the control diet.

Finally, the DASH diet increased the amount of fruit and vegetables while reducing the amount of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sugar. It also increased the number of whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, and low-fat dairy.

In comparison to the control diet, the DASH diet helped drop HDL cholesterol levels and lower systolic blood pressure in people with hypertension, according to the original DASH project's 1997 initial publication. 

Both the DASH diet and the fruit and vegetable diet reduced participants' 10-year risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease by around 10% overall, the research team found when they compared datasets. The DASH eating strategy reduced 10-year risk scores for women by about 13%, compared to just over 6% for males, but the benefit was not constant across all populations.

“The findings could have major implications for clinical practitioners and policy makers alike,” explained first author Sun Young Jeong, MD, MPH, an internal medicine resident at BIDMC.