Could the DASH diet help reduce high blood pressure?

11th November 2021 – By Aaruthy Suthahar

photo of vegetables, fruits and nuts

In a recent study, TwinsUK researchers found that following the DASH diet was linked with reduced blood pressure and that this may be as a result of a simultaneous reduction in weight.  

High blood pressure is a very common although adaptable risk factor for heart disease and deaths worldwide. Risk factors for high blood pressure include both genetic predisposition and environmental or lifestyle factors, such as diet, alcohol use, and inactive behaviour. The DASH diet – which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – consists of foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and low-fat dairy products, and aims to reduce the consumption of red meats and full-fat dairy products.

The DASH diet was developed to combine the effects of many foods and nutrients that have been shown to help lower blood pressure and has been supported by several successful clinical trials. Some countries, including the USA and many European countries, advocate the DASH diet as a suitable nutritional approach for preventing high blood pressure. 

In this present study, the TwinsUK researchers found that body mass index (BMI) is the link between the DASH diet and changes in high blood pressure. The team also identified six molecules in the blood linked with the DASH diet and BMI, indicating shared metabolic pathways.  

The researchers included 2,424 female participants from the TwinsUK cohort with blood pressure and BMI measurements and food intake data. The team investigated the relationship between adherence to a DASH diet and blood pressure in the volunteers.  

One limitation of the research is that the study looked at data only from women and at one specific time point. This means it is difficult to make an accurate conclusion about whether or how the DASH diet reduces blood pressure without further clinical studies.  

First author Panayiotis Louca said: 

“Our study presents novel insights into the relationship between the DASH diet, high blood pressure, and BMI. Further studies should be done to look into the underlying molecular mechanisms to improve our understanding of how to treat high blood pressure.” 

Senior author Cristina Menni said: 

“The team highlight that the findings further our knowledge of the molecular mechanisms at play and may be relevant in developing dietary guidelines for preventing high blood pressure, for future global health.” 

Louca et al. 2021. Body mass index mediates the effect of the DASH diet on hypertension: Common metabolites underlying the association. The Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 

A good diet can keep us healthy – but are we really in control of what we eat?

18th January 2021 – by Paz García

Your food intake patterns are partly under genetic control, according to the latest research from TwinsUK.

First author Olatz Mompeó-Masachs explained:

“We know from previous twin studies that there is a strong genetic component for specific foods such as coffee and garlic, as well as overall eating habits. Our latest study is the first to show that food and nutrient intake, as measured by nine dietary indices, is also partly under genetic control.”

Researchers can study the quality of an individual’s typical diet by using a type of analysis called ‘dietary indices’. Researchers use dietary indices to understand what foods someone eats and the nutrients provided, compared with recommended guidelines.

The team analysed food questionnaire responses from 2,590 TwinsUK members, using nine commonly used dietary indices.  The researchers studied the degree of similarity among identical twins – who share 100% of their genes – compared with non-identical twins, who share 50% of their genes.

The team found that identical twin pairs were more likely to have similar scores across nine dietary indices compared with non-identical twin pairs. This was the case even when other factors were taken into account, such as body mass index (BMI) and exercise levels. The results indicate that there is a genetic component to food intake patterns.

Senior author Dr Massimo Mangino said:

“Our study represents the first comprehensive investigation of the contributions of genetic and environmental factors to the variation in eating behaviour. It highlights the complex relationship between genetic and environment and may have future implications for public health nutrition campaigns.

“This study used food data from female twins only, with an average age of 58. Future research will need to look at dietary indices across a more varied group of people to see if the same findings hold true.”

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