DASH diets and low sodium intake have long been known to be effective in lowering systolic blood pressure. A randomized clinical trial by researchers at the John Hopkins University of Medicine studied the effects of the two diets in over 400 adults. The results of the study were quite promising and have been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) encourages consumption of a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, poultry, and dairy, low or fat or fat-free. The diet has been endorsed and promoted by American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Both these diets have been known to have a positive impact on blood pressure control. However, this new study was specifically designed to evaluate the effects of these diets when they were combined. The investigation was conducted in patients who were at the greatest risk of developing severe forms of hypertension.
The 12-week randomized controlled trial studied 412 adults, with no prior diagnosis of heart disease, between the ages of 23 to 76, with a systolic blood pressure between 120 to 159 mm Hg and a diastolic blood pressure between 80 to 95 mm Hg. The study results showed that participants on the low sodium and DASH diet experienced the greatest reduction in their systolic blood pressure (10-21 mm Hg)
To put this in context, the combined diet achieved a reduction in systolic blood pressure that is equal to if not greater than prescription drugs such as beta blockers and ACE inhibitors. Senior study author Lawrence Appel, M.D, MPH, reiterated that adhering to a healthy and low-sodium diet could go a long way in helping patients control their blood pressure.
Dr. Stephen Juraschek, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins further emphasized the benefits of the DASH diet and highlighted the fact that dietary interventions could be as effective as antihypertensive drugs, if not more. This was especially true for patients who are at a high risk for high blood pressure. He pointed out that dietary interventions should be part of first-line treatment strategies for such patients.