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DASH deemed best diet overall
January 28, 2018, 4:23 pm

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet has for the eight consecutive year been ranked as the ‘best overall’ diet by a panel of health experts associated with the US-based media publication, US News & World Report.

Announcing the results of the annual diet review for 2017, which included appraising nearly 40 different diets, the panel noted: With its focus on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins, DASH, tied this year for ‘best overall’ diet and was ranked No. 1 in the ‘healthy eating’ and ‘heart disease prevention’ categories.

The panel’s high rankings were based on relative ease with which the diet could be followed, it nutritional value and safety, as well as its effectiveness for weight loss and protection against diabetes and heart disease.

The health panel’s choice of DASH as best overall diet coincided with the release of new research which suggests that combining DASH with a low-sodium diet has the potential to lower blood pressure as well as or even better than many anti-hypertension medications.

According to the World Health Organization, hypertension, more commonly referred to as high blood pressure, is the most common chronic condition worldwide. It is a major risk factor for heart disease, affects 1 billion people, and each year accounts for 1 in 8 deaths around the world.

Researchers funded by US health research agency, the National Institutes of Health, developed DASH primarily to prevent and treat high blood pressure, but the diet also has proven highly effective in lowering blood cholesterol.

Previous research has shown that people who follow the DASH diet may be able to reduce their blood pressure by a few points in just two weeks. Over time, their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) could drop by eight to 14 points, which significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The positive health effects could be even greater if DASH is combined with a low sodium diet. A previous study of more than 400 adults with prehypertension, or stage 1 high blood pressure, found that the combination of a low-salt diet with DASH substantially lowers systolic blood pressure. The results were impressive overall, with participants who started out with the highest blood pressure achieving the greatest reductions.

An interesting aspect of the DASH diet is that the effects are greater in people with hypertension or higher blood pressure at baseline, which is comparable to anti-hypertensive medications. The results from the study showed that dietary interventions can be as effective as, or even more effective than, antihypertensive drugs in those at highest risk for high blood pressure, and should be a routine first-line treatment option for such individuals.

DASH is not a fad diet, but a healthy eating plan that supports long-term lifestyle changes. It is low in saturated fat, trans-fat and cholesterol. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods, and includes whole grains, poultry, fish, lean meats, beans, and nuts. It is rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, as well as protein and fiber. It also calls for a reduction in high fat red meat, sweets, and sugary beverages.

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