Quick Study: DASH Diet Works--But Maybe Not for African-Americans

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The study: People who stick to the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) can significantly reduce their blood pressure, a study finds. But the diet may have its limitations—in a clinical trial, African-Americans didn’t stick to it as well as whites did, signaling a need for weight loss plans that take cultural food preferences into consideration.

The study, published online today in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, included 144 sedentary overweight or obese men and women who also had high blood pressure but weren’t taking any medication for it. They were randomly assigned to four months of the DASH diet, the DASH diet plus regular exercise and weight loss counseling, or told to make no lifestyle changes.

Those in the DASH diet plus exercise group lost on average 19 pounds, while the others maintained their weight. The two DASH diet groups also had the biggest declines in blood pressure. But African-Americans had the most trouble sticking to the DASH diet, eating more meat, fat and sweets and less fruit compared with whites.

MORE: The Diet That Trumps Them All

What we already know: The DASH diet, which is big on whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and lean proteins, has an excellent reputation. It was ranked the best overall diet in this year’s U.S. News and World Report's Best Diets, and was also named the best diet for healthy eating and best diabetes diet. An Archives of Internal Medicine study from 2008 found that the DASH diet was linked with a lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke in middle-aged women.

What this means for you: In the study, the authors noted that when following a specific diet, it might be a good idea to modify some favorite foods rather than cutting them out altogether. After all, eating is supposed to be pleasurable, even when trying to get healthier. Instead of never eating macaroni and cheese again, find a recipe lower in fat, calories and salt that still tastes good. As the study points out, food is more than nourishment, it’s a part of our cultural identity and sense of community. 

Do you make lower-fat versions of favorite foods to help you stay on a diet? Let us know in the comments.

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Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal, and has gotten in a boxing ring. Email Jeannine | TakePart.com