Background: Populations eating mainly vegetarian diets have lower blood pressure levels than those eating omnivorous diets. Epidemiologic findings suggest that eating fruits and vegetables lowers blood pressure.
Hypothesis: Two hypotheses were tested: (1) that high intake of fruits and vegetables lowers blood pressure, and (2) that an overall dietary pattern (known as the DASH diet, or DASH combination diet) that is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and low-fat dairy products, emphasizes fish and chicken rather than red meat, and is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar, and refined carbohydrate lowers blood pressure.
Methods: Participants were 459 adults with untreated systolic blood pressure < 160 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure 80-95 mmHg. After a 3-week run-in on a control diet typical of Americans, they were randomized to 8 weeks receiving either the control diet, or a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, or the DASH diet. The participants were given all of their foods to eat, and body weight and sodium intake were held constant. Blood pressure was measured at the clinic and by 24-h ambulatory monitoring.
Results: The DASH diet lowered systolic blood pressure significantly in the total group by 5.5/3.0 mmHg, in African Americans by 6.9/3.7 mmHg, in Caucasians by 3.3/2.4 mmHg, in hypertensives by 11.6/5.3 mmHg, and in nonhypertensives by 3.5/2.2 mmHg. The fruits and vegetables diet also reduced blood pressure in the same subgroups, but to a lesser extent. The DASH diet lowered blood pressure similarly throughout the day and night.
Conclusions: The DASH diet may offer an alternative to drug therapy in hypertensives and, as a population approach, may prevent hypertension, particularly in African Americans.