This diet is linked to improved cardiovascular risk factors

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A study has found the popular DASH diet does more than lower blood pressure.

Researchers from Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have found it may also lead to decreased cardiac damage, inflammation, injury and stress.

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“Our study represents some of the strongest evidence that diet directly impacts cardiac damage, and our findings show that dietary interventions can improve cardiovascular risk factors in a relatively short time period,” first and corresponding author Stephen Juraschek, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at BIDMC and Harvard Medical School said in a press release. “The data reinforce the importance of a lifestyle that includes a reduced-sodium, DASH diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains to minimize cardiac damage over time.”

Results from the study were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. According to U.S. News and World Report, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute promotes it to halt high blood pressure. The website named the DASH diet the No. 2 best overall diet. It promotes consuming high amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meats. Sweets and foods high in saturated fat are discouraged.

The BIDMC study analyzed three cardiovascular biomarkers to learn if diet has a direct influence on cardiac health. Stored blood samples from 412 clinical trial participants in the DASH-Sodium study were evaluated. The biomarkers are measurable blood substances proven to predict cardiovascular events in adults without known cardiovascular disease. Each biomarker is tied to injury, stress or inflammation.

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Participants on the DASH diet had cardiac damage biomarkers that dropped by 18% and inflammation biomarkers that dropped by 13%. Participants on the DASH diet that was also reduced-sodium had a 20% decrease in injury biomarkers and a 23% drop in stress biomarkers. This was the biggest drop in the group. Inflammation wasn’t noticeably affected. Additionally, stress biomarkers decreased by 19% in study participants on low sodium diets, whether or not they followed the DASH diet.

“We used highly sensitive markers of subclinical cardiovascular disease to show how two dietary strategies can improve distinct mechanisms of subclinical cardiac injury in a relatively short time period, suggesting that the improvements in cardiovascular disease risk factors observed from a reduced-sodium, DASH diet may also reduce concurrent cardiac damage,” Juraschek said. “Our study has important clinical implications, and these findings should strengthen public resolve for public policies that promote the DASH dietary pattern and lower sodium intake in the United States and globally.”