WEDNESDAY, Sept. 19, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- People who stick with the so-called "DASH diet" achieve significant reductions in blood pressure, but blacks are less likely than whites to adopt the diet, researchers have found.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet -- which is rich in healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy items, and low in fats and cholesterol -- has been proven to help lower blood pressure.
In this study, Duke University Medical Center researchers examined whether adherence to the DASH diet was associated with blood pressure changes and what factors predicted who would stay with the diet.
The study included 144 sedentary, overweight or obese adults who had hypertension (high blood pressure) and were not taking blood-pressure lowering medications. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups: DASH diet alone; DASH diet plus weight-loss counseling and aerobic exercise; or no change in diet and exercise habits.
After four months, participants in the DASH diet/counseling/exercise group lost an average of 19 pounds. Weight remained stable in the other two groups, the investigators found.
Participants in both DASH diet groups had significant reductions in blood pressure levels, and those who adhered most closely to the diet had the largest drops in blood pressure. This suggests that following the DASH diet lowers blood pressure, independent of exercise and weight loss.
But the study found that exercise and weight loss in addition to the DASH diet promoted even greater reductions in blood pressure and improved other measures of heart health.
The researchers also discovered that blacks were less likely than whites to adopt the DASH diet. No other factor predicted whether participants would stick with the diet, according to the study published online Sept. 19 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The findings suggest that altering traditional recipes rather than eliminating certain foods altogether might improve black patients' adherence to the DASH diet.
"We need to be aware of cultural differences in dietary preferences in order to help people better adopt a DASH-friendly diet," James Blumenthal, a professor of behavioral medicine, said in a Duke news release. "It is important to take into account traditional food choices and cooking practices when attempting to incorporate more DASH foods into daily meal plans."
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about the DASH diet.