Not Another Fad Diet Plan...

When I first read the headline for this story, thought I detected a hint of just another of the fad diet plans that come and go, yet never work. But this diet sounds a little bit more reasonable.

A new study provides more evidence that a low-fat diet full of fruits and vegetables, but little salt, can lead to a significant drop in blood pressure.
The findings underscore the role that diet, specifically a low-fat diet called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), can play in lowering blood pressure. The report re-emphasized the benefits of the DASH diet and a lower sodium intake for reducing blood pressure, researchers said.

In the study, 412 people were randomly assigned to a typical U.S. diet or the DASH diet, which focuses on fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts. Researchers varied participants' salt intake, with each group consuming high, medium and low levels of salt per day for a month at a time during the three-month study.

At the start, the subjects' systolic blood pressure (the upper number in a reading) ranged from 120 to 159 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and diastolic pressure (the lower number) ranged from 80 to 95 mm Hg. Blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg or higher is considered high--even if only one number is elevated. A reading between 130/85 and 139/89 is considered high normal.

Scientists found reducing sodium intake consistently reduced blood pressure across all participating groups. The lower the reduction in sodium means the lower the reduction in blood pressure. The pressure-lowering benefits of cutting back on salt were consistent regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age or previous blood pressure level, the study found.

Since most Americans already eat far more salt than is recommended, decreasing it would mean a substantial reduction in salt intake for most, but it's important to look at where the majority of this salt is coming from.

Not surprisingly, three-quarters of the salt Americans consume daily comes from processed and restaurant foods. Generally, cutting out processed foods from your diet, which should be done for a number of health reasons, would drastically reduce the amount of salt you consume.

Yahoo News August 18, 2004


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